Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

Couple gets accidentally divorced after law firm's error

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Apr 17, 2024 3:23 pm

A couple in the United Kingdom had their marriage dissolved by accident thanks to an error made by a London law firm, something that a senior judge says cannot be reversed.

In a report by The Guardian, the couple, referred to as Mr. and Mrs. Williams in court proceedings, lived the married life for 21 years before deciding to separate in 2023. 

The pair were still in the middle of discussing financial arrangements for their split when lawyers at the London firm Vardags, who were representing the wife, accidentally made their separation final through an online portal.

According to Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division, the lawyers were initially going to apply for a divorce for another client "but inadvertently opened the electronic case file in 'Williams v Williams' and proceeded to apply for a final order in that case."

The online system, which was used "without the instruction or authority of their client," approved the Williamses' divorce in just 21 minutes.

It wasn't until two days later that the solicitors discovered the mistake and tried to invalidate the order to the high court, reasoning that it should be set aside as it was applied for by mistake due to someone at Vardags "clicking the wrong button." 

But McFarlane rejected the application, stressing, "There is a strong public policy interest in respecting the certainty and finality that flows from a final divorce order and maintaining the status quo that it has established."

The judge added that this was necessary to reinforce that the online divorce portal system would "deliver a final order of divorce where one was not wanted simply by 'the click of a wrong button.'"

"Like many similar online processes, an operator may only get to the final screen where the final click of the mouse is made after traveling through a series of earlier screens," McFarlane said.

Ayesha Vardag, the head of the law firm, meanwhile argued that the judge reached a "bad decision," reasoning that "the state should not be divorcing people on the basis of a clerical error. There has to be intention on the part of the person divorcing, because the principle of intention underpins the justice of our legal system."

"When a mistake is brought to a court’s attention, and everyone accepts that a mistake has been made, it obviously has to be undone … That means that, for now, our law says that you can be divorced by an error made on an online system. And that’s just not right, not sensible, not justice," she continued.

The self-proclaimed "diva of divorce" emphasized that she is standing by the solicitor who made the mistake, adding that incidents like this "happen a fair bit with the new online system."