Proposed Amendments to Bundles (PD27A)

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Sir James Munby has recently published a Memorandum proposing amendments to the Bundles PD – PD27A.

In his announcement he said

“PD27A imposes a 350-page limit (PD 27A, para 5.1) and spells out (para 4.1) the fundamental principle that “The bundle shall contain copies of only those documents which are relevant to the hearing and which it is necessary for the court to read or which will actually be referred to during the hearing.” Compliance with these requirements is still fitful.

One matter which is not regulated by PD27A is the length of individual documents. I urged restraint in Re L [2015] EWFC 15, [2015] 1 FLR 1417, paras 21-22. I am not conscious that this has had much effect. I wonder whether the time has therefore not now come to impose page limits for certain types of documents, which will be mandatory in all cases “Unless” – cf PD27A, para 5.1 – “the court has specifically directed otherwise, being satisfied that such direction is necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly.”

I accordingly suggest for consideration the insertion in PD27A of a new para 5.2A, as follows:

“Unless the court has specifically directed otherwise, being satisfied that such direction is necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly, any of the following documents included in the bundle shall be limited to no more than the number of sheets of A4 paper and sides of text specified below:”

 

Case summary  4
Statement of issues 2
Position statement 5
Chronology 10
Skeleton argument 15
List of essential reading 1
Witness statement or affidavit (exclusive of exhibits) 20
Expert’s or other report 40
Care plan 10

 

He continues in the Memorandum:

I ask three questions: (i) is this desirable; (ii) if so, should length be controlled by a page count or a word count; and (iii) if by page count, are the suggested figures are appropriate?

As a separate matter, I further suggest that the final words of PD27A, para 4.3, be re-numbered 4.3A and amended to read (additional words show in italic):

“Copies of all authorities relied on must be contained in a separate composite bundle agreed between the advocates. Unless the court has specifically directed otherwise, being satisfied that such direction is necessary to enable the proceedings to be disposed of justly, the bundle shall not contain more than 10 authorities. Where a case is reported in a law report which contains a headnote, such a report shall be used and transcripts (including transcripts on BAILII) shall not be used. Attention is drawn to the Practice Direction dated 24 March 2012.”

The need for this is indicated by Holman J’s judgment in Seagrove v Sullivan [2014] EWHC 4110 (Fam), paras 21-22.”

 

For those that don’t want to trawl through the Judgement in Seagrove V Sullivan, those paragraphs mentioned in the Memorandum are here:

[21] As long ago as 24 March 2012, the then Lord Chief Justice issued a practice direction headed ‘Citation of Authorities’. That practice direction is reproduced and very clearly available to family practitioners at page 2962 of the current, 2014 edition of the Family Court Practice. Paragraph 14 of the direction makes plain that it has been made with the agreement of, amongst others, the President of the Family Division. Paragraph 1 provides that:

‘This Practice Direction is issued in order to clarify the practice and procedure governing the citation of authorities and applies throughout the Senior Courts of England and Wales, including the Crown Court, in county courts and in magistrates’ courts.’

It varies an earlier practice direction so that the relevant part of that practice direction now provides that:

‘The bundle of authorities should comply with the requirements of Practice Direction: Citation of Authorities (2012) and in general –

 

(a) have the relevant passages of the authorities marked;

(b) not include authorities for propositions not in dispute; and

(c) not contain more than 10 authorities unless the scale of the appeal warrants more extensive citation.’

Although it is true that subparagraph (c) makes reference to ‘the appeal’, it is, frankly, inconceivable that more authorities should be liable to be cited at the level of first instance than at the level of an appeal. So the clear starting point is that a bundle of authorities should not contain more than ten authorities, unless the scale of the case warrants more extensive citation.

[22] Pausing there, one wonders what it is about this case that requires and justifies citation of three times the number of authorities that the Lord Chief Justice, with the agreement of the President of the Family Division, clearly stipulated.

 

 

Changes to the Child Arrangements Programme

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The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has announced that the CAP orders for private law children proceedings are to be changed. In an announcement dated 21st January 2016, he wrote:

In November 2014 I asked a group of district judges (Martin Dancey, Chris Darbyshire, Geoff Edwards, James Heyworth and Patrick Perusko, later assisted by Max Ellington) to look again at the CAP orders for private law cases.

I was all too conscious that the existing orders were not doing what was required. I made clear that the task was to be approached with a clean sheet and not encumbered by the requirements of PD12B regarding the content of orders. Since then those judges have been working to draft private law orders that they consider, and I agree, have to meet certain purposes. First, the orders have been prepared on the basis that the primary and most important audience is the parties themselves, more often than not now unrepresented. So they must be as concise as possible and easy to understand. The orders have been seen by AdviceNow and their suggestions for simpler language have been incorporated.

Secondly, a problem with the CAP orders was the extent to which they required recitals before the operative part of the order was reached. Of course recitals can be very useful in explaining the context of an order and dealing with matters that should not be in the order itself. However there was a strong feeling that the sheer length of orders with long recitals was too daunting, particularly for litigants in person. So the new orders are less prescriptive as to recitals, leaving it to the good sense of judges in any particular case what they choose to include or leave out. With the agreement of the Family Procedure Rules Committee I have now approved amendments to PD12B removing the requirement for certain information to be included on the face of orders.

Thirdly, CPR 81.9 requires that, to be enforceable, penal and warning notices must be prominently displayed on the front of the order. Necessarily therefore, all the warning notices have been collected together on the front page. Fourthly, it is hoped that as many judges and justices’ legal advisers as possible will use the Judicial Template to produce the new orders. I would very much encourage you to do so. I know that in some areas they are used by judges and legal advisers at all levels. However, tick box forms have been drawn up for those who do not feel able to use the Templates.

In an attempt to keep these forms to a manageable length they are separated into A Allocation and Gatekeeping, B Case Management Directions and Section 8 and other Orders and C Enforcement. HMCTS staff are being provided with the full text of the orders to which the tick box forms relate so they can draw the appropriate orders using FamilyMan.

Whichever method is used to produce orders I am keen that parties should leave court with a copy of the order made at the hearing whenever possible. That will usually be achieved if the Template is used. Fifthly, it is important that practitioners have access to the same orders as judges so that they can draft consistently.

To that end I am making them available to the Bar and Law Society to circulate to family practitioners.

I am immensely grateful to Martin and his team for all their hard work and trust that users of the revised forms will agree with me that they have made very great improvements.

You will know that District Judge Geoff Edwards was responsible for the family and civil templates. His tireless work on these templates over so many years was invaluable. His unexpected death in November last year left a huge gap. He is sorely missed. I am very grateful to retired District Judge Bill Vincent for stepping in and completing Geoff’s work.

 

The revised orders have been prepared on the basis that:

  • The primary and most important audience is the parties themselves, more often than not now unrepresented, and must be as concise as possible and easy to understand.  The orders have been seen by AdviceNow and their suggestions for simpler language have been incorporated.
  • A problem with the CAP orders was the extent to which they required recitals before the operative part of the order was reached.  While recitals can be very useful in explaining the context of an order and dealing with matters that should not be in the order itself, there was a strong feeling that the sheer length of orders with long recitals was too daunting, particularly for litigants in person.  The new orders are less prescriptive as to recitals, leaving it to judges in any particular case as to what they choose to include or leave out.  With the agreement of the Family Procedure Rules Committee, the President has approved amendments to PD 12B removing the requirement for certain information to be included on the face of orders.
  • Rule 81.9 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 requires that, to be enforceable, penal and warning notices must be prominently displayed on the front of the order.  All the warning notices have therefore been collected together on the front page.
  • It is hoped that as many judges and justices’ legal advisers as possible will use the judicial template to produce the new orders and are encouraged to do so by the President.  Tick box forms have been drawn up for those who do not use the templates.
  • In an attempt to keep the forms to a manageable length they are separated into: A Allocation and gatekeeping; B Case management directions and section 8 and other orders; and C Enforcement.
  • HMCTS staff are being provided with the full text of the orders to which the tick box forms relate so they can draw the appropriate orders using the courts’ IT programme, FamilyMan.  Whichever method is used to produce orders the President is keen that parties should leave court with a copy of the order made at the hearing whenever possible.

You can view the new “tick-box” Orders here – Child Arrangements Programme Master Orders

More accessible language is very welcome – as the numbers of litigants in person rise in Private Family Law cases, there is ever more a need for simpler, clearer wording and layout of court orders. All too often, parents are left bamboozled by the archaic language in orders – and application forms (one of the reasons why Nick and I wrote the Family Law A-Z). I wonder if there will be a similar overhaul of the Ancillary Relief orders in the near future?

The guidance gives no indication as to when the new “tick-box” orders will be adopted.

 

Children of the Revolution

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The language and vocabulary  we use say much more about us than the words alone.

In the field of family break-down, I am very aware of the language and words used by parents. Often, without realising what they are actually projecting, people use words, phrases, language which often tells me much more than they think are saying. The words used can either calm a situation or more often than not, increase and inflame hostility and conflict.

I have read many, many statements from parents in support of their proposals for parenting time. All too often, they focus on what the parent wants – starting sentences with “I want”, using self-focused language that moves the emphasis on to what the parent desires, rather than keeping the  child’s needs as the heart of the statement.

Language can often inflame an already delicate situation, and create fractures and hostility where adopting a different sort of language would actually do the opposite. Such examples of unhealthy or unhelpful language are:

Gatekeeping Language:

“I allow him to see the children”; “I have told him when he can see the children”; “I have made it very clear that the children will live with me, and they can visit him”. This type of language is frequent, it is controlling language, limiting the actions and parenting input of the recipient of such language.

Entitlement Language

“I am entitled to a large share of the assets/their pension”, “She isn’t entitled to anything – it was me who worked for it all, all she did was stay home and have babies”. This language suggests that the speaker has a belief that s/he is inherently deserving of of privileges or special treatment.

Ownership Language

“I gave birth to them, they are MY children”; “I want MY days/time with the children”; – ie treating children as possessions

Instructive Language – You will, you must, you should…. This is directive and holds an expectation of compliance from the other parent.

Both genders are guilty of using such language – it is not solely confined to one gender or the other.

In recent history the acronyms/terms PWC, Absent Parent and NRP were and in some instances still are used as acceptable terms/acronyms to describe the status of each parent in their child’s life, the role they play and therefore the importance of each parent in that child’s life.

PWC, which is usually take to mean Parent with Care, stems from the Child Support Act 1991 – and the actual wording in the Act (s3) is person with care, and not Parent with Care.

Absent parent within the confines of the Child Support Act 1991 refers to the person with the responsibility to pay child support, this was then replaced with the term NRP in January 2001.

And NRP simply stands for Non-Resident Parent, and is more often than not, referring to fathers.

Absent parent was an incredibly insulting and degrading term to be used in a legislative act and, unfortunately, the term stuck, and was banded about by the gutter press and organisations promoting single-motherhood as yet another stick with which to beat fathers and proclaim them to be “deadbeat dads”.

PWC suggests that this person has a greater presence, a greater influence, a greater investment into their child, and therefore the one who wields the power.

NRP suggests that this person has much less presence (physical and emotional), much less influence, and much less investment into their child, and that their main role in their child’s life is simply to provide additional money.

This is such an extraordinary imbalance on the scales of parenting, these terms are actually financial services terms, in respect of who pays and who receives, they were never designed to be used as role descriptions for parents in terms of the care they individually gave to their children, or indeed the amount of time they individually spend with their child.   The terms used in the legislation were never intended to be seized upon by the outside world and used in a judgemental pseudo-official way to define a parent’s status in their child’s life.

Over the last 18 months or so, people posting on the Wikivorce forum have moved away from talking about PWC (or indeed primary carers) and NRPs (and certainly Absent Fathers), and collectively, as a community, and with no prior instruction or direction by the forum management. This change in language was lead, I suspect by a handful of prominent and regular posters (both male and female), who used far more inclusive and non-judgemental terms and language, the main lead was using language and terminology that is child-focused, family-focused.

 

This change in language and problem-solving has been assisted in part by the changes in child maintenance and the setting up of the Child Maintenance Service, and the fact that where there is equal care of a child, the calculation for child support will be £0 – regardless of who earns what. Each parent will then have the same outgoings for their children. The push of Family Based Arrangements for child support, and the introduction of a fairly hefty collection and delivery fee were designed not only to make the system pay for itself (or at least in part), but also to encourage parents to communicate and sort out their own arrangements regarding child support.

The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced the Child Arrangements Orders and did away with Residence and Contact Orders – CAO applications now require all aspects of arrangements for a child to be considered and set out when making an application – it’s not enough to simply state you wish to have the child live with you, you must also include a parenting plan setting out what the arrangements will, including how often they will spend time with their other parent. The change to Child Arrangements Orders sought to include both parents in such arrangements rather than the old Residence Orders and Contact Orders, which excluded one parent.

The change to child-focused language on the Wikivorce forum is not just healthy and now beginning to filter down to other internet communities and forums, but the fact is that it was a natural evolution of language and approach to looking at situations to one that is child-focused, rather than adult-focused. The evolution is parent-led, and is bottom-up, rather than top-down which is so often the case with mothers’/fathers’ groups. Using language that is child- and not adult-centric goes against the tide of language we so often see from mothers’ groups and fathers’ rights groups – all of whom claim to be child-focused but so often belie their own proclamations with the information and articles they publish and share.  Posting anonymously, with a purely altruistic ethos with no interest in personal gain or having their ego massaged and inflated, these people are the ones who are guiding parents out of the dark ages and into a new age of talking and problem-solving.  Often these guiding lights will post on other forums and talk face-to-face with other parents (especially after their own situation is resolved) this change and approach to language and problem-solving filters through to others who may not have otherwise been exposed to a child-focused ethos. I have written previously about the issues with gender-based support for those experiencing divorce/separation/family break-down – Taking The Gender Out Of Family Breakdown

This change is country-wide rather than being limited to one small geographical area and therefore reaching out to a great many more parents and people. It filters down into the Position Statements parents write, the communications they send to the other parent, the way they approach problem-solving, the way they think about their situation and are more able to take on board the perceptions of the other parent. There is also a good understanding of the Kübler-Ross grieving cycle   – often referred to as the “Rollercoaster” on the Wikivorce forum, understanding what each stage is, and where individuals are most likely to be in this rollercoaster also helps those replying to posts give the appropriate advice at the right time; as well as put across the perspective of the other spouse who may well not be in the same emotional place as the one asking questions on the forum.

Wikivorce is owned by a man, and the community area is managed by a woman who is assisted by a team of volunteers (both men and women) – neither are interested in the slightest in gender-politics, only in helping people and ensuring that those who seek help and assistance receive the very best that the organisation can offer. Those prominent members who work on the free advice line and/or respond to posts and requests on a very frequent and regular basis are a mix of men and women, some professional, others who have their own personal experiences of divorce/separation/family break-down – the wealth of personal experience is vast. Again, these people are not interested in gender-politics, but with the very real job of assisting those who seek help and support.

The people on Wikivorce, and Wikivorce itself as an organisation, are leading by example, turning against the current tide, and creating a new approach for others to follow – an approach where men and women work together, not against each other, where men and women support one another during their darkest days using empathy and understanding, where men and women are collaborating together to provide a space for all those that need support and help and advice.

The way forward won’t be easy – I’m quite sure there are those self-styled experts who will dismiss this article, and the collective efforts of Wikivorce and its members as nonsense, but it’s very hard to dismiss the changes that are now actually happening and evident to see.

This is not just evolution, this is revolution.

Cui dono lepidum nouum libellum?

ExInjuria

BookCoverPreview Final

At long last, my translation of Catullus is to be available – immediately on Createspace from this link: https://www.createspace.com/5710924

or within a couple of days on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Catullus-Poems-Translation-Gaius-Valerius/dp/1517138450/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453551668&sr=1-1

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Update on investigation into faulty online form used in divorce proceedings.

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Written statement to Parliament from the Ministry of Justice and Shailesh Vara MP

Just prior to the Christmas recess, an error was identified in an online version of Form E.

This is the form provided by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) in order to enable people to disclose financial information during divorce and similar proceedings.

This fault meant that the automatic calculator in the form calculated the wrong total for an individual’s net assets by failing to deduct certain liabilities.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) was alerted to the fault on 10 December 2015 and a corrected version of the form was put online on 14 December. However the wider implications of the faulty form were not immediately recognised.

As soon as I was made aware of this issue on 16 December, I ordered an urgent investigation.

The investigation found the faulty formula was present in versions of Form E which were online between April 2014 and mid December 2015 and between April 2011 and January 2012.

A total of 36,527 cases contain a version of Form E filed from these periods. HMCTS staff have now reviewed all these cases and found that 3,638 files – 10% – contained the faulty calculator version of Form E with an incorrect figure for net assets figure in the summary table.

1,403 of these cases are still live, allowing HMCTS to intervene immediately to clearly flag these cases to the courts in order to avoid the error affecting the final orders in these cases.

The remaining 2,235 files – 6.1% – were closed cases. Although the faulty form was used in these cases, it will not necessarily have had any effect on the ultimate outcome. Form E is only a part of the material used by the parties and the court and is used at an early stage, so the information is often disputed or superseded by further information introduced during proceedings.

Following the error coming to light, HMCTS established a dedicated email address which people could use if they were concerned about their own case: formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk. This email address was advertised on our website and also in all responses to media enquiries. As of 21 January, 51 members of the public have emailed us about their case.

I have instructed HMCTS to write to all parties in the 2,235 closed cases. The letter expresses our sincere regret for the error, sets out what happened and explains that, although Form E is just one part of the evidence used in their case, there remains a possibility that the error affected the final outcome.

The letter sets out options available to people involved in these cases. Some may wish to do nothing, if, for example, they know that the error was corrected during the proceedings or they do not wish to re-open their cases. If people think they have been affected by this error then they can apply to the court to vary or set aside their order. My officials consulted the President of the Family Division about the court rules and procedures that would apply to such applications or for any other proceedings that might be open to the parties. My officials also consulted the President on the development of a specific form for such applications. We have provided a link to the new form in our letter to the parties, as well as guidance on how to complete the form.

I have instructed that no court fee will be charged for making this application, and this is also made this clear in the letter from HMCTS.

We are also uploading a new version of Form E which makes clearer how the calculation of net assets should be made. We will also consider the future of Form E as part of our broader court reforms and the automatic calculator function will be disabled during this process.

This failure should not have happened. Divorce proceedings can be very difficult and I sincerely apologise for this situation and any distress it may have caused.

 

I have written previously about this issue – Error in Online Form E calculations – is my judgement affected?

What Are Your Options if You Can’t Afford a Solicitor?

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There are a number of alternative options:

Represent yourself entirely. Wikivorce is the best free resource for litigants in person in family proceedings. The only costs you would incur are your own travel/stationery/other associated costs and court fees. You would do all the work, and have to address the court yourself. You can always take a McKenzie Friend with you to provide support, take notes and quietly give advice during the court proceedings.

Represent yourself, and use a solicitor on an as and when basis for legal advice (known as unbundling). Although you would be doing the bulk of the work yourself, you would still have the back-up of legal advice from a solicitor, and be able to keep a tight reign on the costs.

Represent yourself, do the work, and instruct a direct access barrister to represent you at hearings and speak on your behalf at court hearings – especially a Final Hearing.

If your spouse is a high earner, then it may be possible for you to apply to court for a Legal Services Order, which would provide you with assistance in paying your legal costs. More information can be found here – Legal Services Orders

This post on Wikivorce has a wealth of very useful guides/articles/document templates that LiPs may find useful –Useful Resources for Litigants in Person

Over the next few months, I will be focusing on writing and sharing articles aimed at those who are unable to afford a solicitor and who have no option but to represent themselves in family litigation.

House of Commons research briefing published on rise of LiPs in Civil and Famaily Cases

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The House of Commons Library has published a research briefing collating all the available information concerning the increase in self-representation in family and civil proceedings.

 

Summary

The available evidence indicates that the proportion of litigants appearing before the civil and family courts without legal representation (litigants in person, also sometimes called self-represented litigants) has increased since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 took many civil and private law children and family cases out of scope for legal aid in England and Wales from 1 April 2013.

The changes to the scope of civil and family legal aid have proved controversial. Concerns have been expressed about the effects on individuals who are no longer eligible for legal aid to resolve legal problems and on the courts which must deal with increased numbers of litigants in person.

Whether the reforms will generate the savings that have been claimed – or whether the increased numbers of litigants in person will drive up costs – has also been debated. Reliable data on LIPs are scarce and the National Audit Office (NAO) has been critical of the limitations of the MoJ’s data.

Most of the data that are available concern LIPs in the family courts, although the NAO has said that the legal aid reforms are likely also to have increased the number of LIPs in civil law courts.

The NAO has reported a 22% increase in cases involving contact with children (Children Act 1989 private law matters) and a 30% increase across all family court cases (including those that remain eligible for civil legal aid) in which neither party had legal representation.

In its own inquiry into the impact of the changes to civil legal aid, the Commons Justice Committee looked in some detail at the effects of the changes on the numbers of LIPs and their experiences. The Committee heard evidence to suggest that not only were there more LIPs, they were now qualitatively different. In the past, LIPs had been in the courts by choice but now they were there because they could not get legal aid. The Committee voiced concern that some LIPs might have difficulty in presenting their case.

 

Particular issues surrounding the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012’s impact on clients seeking help with legal problems, the availability of legal aid for victims of domestic abuse, and the apparent rise in the number of “advice deserts” observed since the 2012 Act came into force are discussed in other Commons Library briefings, available on Parliament’s topic page for legal aid

The full briefing paper can be read here – Litigants in person: the rise of the self-represented litigant in civil and family cases in England and Wales

Family Mediation Week – 11-15 January 2016

Next week is Family Mediation Week, which aims to raise awareness of mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively and productively.

Ruth Langford

Family mediation aims to encourage separating couples to sit down together and work out solutions to the financial and family-based issues that can be part of separation or divorce. The goal is for both partners to come to an amicable agreement which suits everyone involved, avoiding the costs – literally and figuratively – of bitter battles in court. Mediation can help to secure a far better outcome for couples and children – it tends to be quicker, less costly and less combative than resolving issues through court or solicitors.

With the number of mediation assessments in the UK decreasing by 56% between 2012 and 2014, it’s quite possible that many couples going through a separation or divorce don’t know that family mediation is an option for them, or are unaware of the advantages of mediation over its alternatives.

Family Mediation Week is organised by The Family Mediators Association and aims to raise awareness of the benefits of family mediation, and to encourage separating couples to consider family mediation as a way of helping them take control, make decisions together and build a more collaborative future for their family.

According to the Ministry of Justice, in 2013 “nearly two thirds of couples who attended a single mediation session for a child dispute reached a full agreement. Almost seven out of every ten couples who opted for mediation reached an agreement.” (Ministry of Justice Press Release published 20 August 2014)

In 2013 more than 17,000 people successfully used publicly funded mediation with only six per cent needing further legal services, compared to 21 per cent of those who didn’t use mediation. ‘Sustainability of mediation and legal representation in private family law cases: Analysis of legal aid administrative datasets, Quartermain [MoJ 2011]’

Legal aid is still available for mediation  and people on a low income can receive mediation funded by the government. The new Legal Aid Agency scheme provides funding for a single mediation session for both parties even if just one of them qualifies for legal aid.

Family Mediation Week

Wikivorce Guide to Mediation

 

Error in Online Form E calculations – is my judgement affected?

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The HMCTS online Form E appears to have a calculation error in one part of the form – thus leading to alarmist news articles, and this morning I would imagine many divorced people who thought all the finances were resolved are waking up to this news and thinking that their settlement may be affected.

Form E is not used in every divorce case, nor in every case to resolve the finances of the marriage. Many couples rely on self-disclosure, the mediation disclosure forms, or simply use the D81 as a guide to disclosure.

The situations in which you might be asked to voluntarily complete Form E are:
– by a mediator before you attend a financial mediation session
– by your solicitor or your ex’s solicitor before attempts at reaching an out of court settlement

Where there are either: fairly complex finances, substantial assets or a lack of knowledge about your spouses finances – then you will typically be required to complete and exchange Form E.
If you are in dispute about the finances and are going through the Ancillary Relief process in court then you do have to complete Form E.

 

If you are concerned about the validity of your online divorce, please don’t worry – the form in question is used for Ancillary Relief purposes, and not to dissolve the marriage. 

 

You will not be affected by this calculation error if:

If you used old-fashioned pen and paper to complete Form and work out your own calculation

If you never exchanged Form E (obvious, I know – but best to provide clarification)

 You are unlikely to be affected by this calculation error if:

If you used a solicitor – it is highly unlikely they used the HMCTS Form E

If you used an online provider for your consent order, then Form E is very unlikely to have been used (unless the parties themselves used the online Form E prior to getting CO and relied on the figures produced by the online Form E)

You may be affected by this calculation error if:

If you used the online HMCTS Form E and didn’t check and double check the automated calculations then you are probably affected. If your judgement/settlement relied solely on the Form E figures rather than on a the usual summary of means and schedule of assets  then you may be affected and should check your calculations in the form e  – ie if neither party was represented, and the Judge at FDR took the figures at face value and gave a poor indication to get the parties to settle

 

A spokesman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service person said:

“We are urgently investigating this issue. “Officials are taking steps to identify rapidly cases where this regrettable error may have had an impact, and we will be writing to anyone affected as soon as possible.  Anyone concerned about their own court proceedings should contact formE@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk .”

Despite the press I suspect that only a very small number of people will be affected, the press speculation is alarmist and unnecessary.  Any decent family law solicitor wouldn’t rely solely on the online form E calculations and would make their own detailed  calculations of what a fair division of the marital assets would be – I doubt very much they would rely solely on the online Form E and it’s botched calculations. It’s worth noting that with the online Form E, one can input their own figures into the total boxes, so no-one should really be relying on the form to do all the calculations for them  – always check, double check and then triple check your figures.

It’s all a bit of a storm in a (Form) E cup really.

Fancy a Quickie?

Tackling the myth of the “quickie divorce”

ExInjuria

The media today are full of stories of Rowan Atkinson’s divorce from his wife, Sunetra.

The versions in the press are identical, showing not only a common source, but also a common failure to apply any editorial oversight to the story.

The first version I read was in the Telegraph, so it is on that version that I shall comment.

The Telegraph’s headline reads, “Rowan Atkinson divorced in 65 seconds on grounds of his ‘unreasonable behaviour’”.

There are a few issues even with that headline, and the first is that the Atkinsons are not yet divorced, and won’t be for some months, so the headline is inaccurate on that ground alone.

Secondly, and to be pedantic, ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is not a ground for divorce, for which there is only the one ground of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Unreasonable behaviour is one of five ‘facts’ which may be adduced…

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