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Computer says no: divorce website glitch

Computer says no: divorce website glitch


In one of a series of incidents seemingly designed to remind the legal sector that computers are not infallible, thousands of recently-divorced couples may find themselves back at the negotiating table (possibly glaring at each other, depending on circumstances).

It would seem that a software fault in the systems that calculate deals dividing assets between divorcing couples calls many of these deals into question. The Ministry of Justice has admitted to the problem, which was only unearthed after a certain amount of detective work on the part of a family law specialist. Even more astonishingly, the eagle-eyed individual isn’t even a lawyer, but rather what’s known as a ‘’McKenzie friend” – a lay expert who assists litigants who are without a lawyer.

The glitch has the potential to overestimate the worth of one of the parties in a divorce, having obviously fairly significant impact on the calculation of a deal. 

Julian Lipson, head of family law at Withers, said: “That creates a significant dilemma. The wronged party won’t be able to say that they were misled. Normally a settlement can only be undone if one of the parties wilfully doesn’t disclose relevant information, or makes a material misrepresentation . . . this could be difficult to unravel.”

The courts service reports that the software was indeed at fault, and has now been rectified, though there has been no public statement about the glitch and its consequences. Those consequences could, of course, be decidedly tiresome and lengthy for those involved, since it could take months to re-examine settlement deals and establish whether there has been an error. Even more alarmingly for the MoJ, it may find itself on the receiving end of legal proceedings.

Here at Legastat we have always maintained that developments in legal tech should cautiously embraced: used effectively, IT is an unbeatable tool for delivering a swift, effective and efficient legal service, but it is essential not to place implicit trust in systems that can fail. If you are looking for litigation support partners that can help build a truly 21st-century business that is also on guard against computer error, call the IT experts at Legastat now.