Law Firm Accidentally Gets Wrong Couple Divorced

While some couples do end in divorce, others would much rather stay happily married. A law firm clerk accidentally got the wrong couple divorced after they chose the wrong file on an online portal.

A senior judge refused to overturn the divorce of a couple who had accidentally been chosen from a dropdown menu on an online portal by solicitors at leading London law firm Vardags, headed by Ayesha Vardag. The couple, named Mr. and Mrs. Williams by the court, had been married for 21 years until 2023 when they separated.

The pair was in the middle of arranging financial agreements for their separation when a clerk working at the law firm accidentally selected them for a final divorce order on an online portal. This speedy process saw them legally divorced in just 21 minutes.

While attempts to have the error fixed had been made, the judge ultimately denied the reversal because the public trust in a truly final divorce order was more important. “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,” Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division, said.

The firm insisted that the employee had accidentally selected the couple’s file but the judge didn’t have any part of that. They said that in reality, one had to go through multiple screens on the portal to be granted a final order.

“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,” Sir McFarlane said.

Ayesha Vardag, argued that the judge’s decision was the wrong one, saying that it allowed a computer to say “no, you’re divorced.”

“The state should not be divorcing people on the basis of a clerical error,” Vardag added. “There has to be intention on the part of the person divorcing because the principle of intention underpins the justice of our legal system.”

She continued: “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.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2024/apr/15/wrong-couple-divorced-solicitor-clicks-wrong-button