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.