May 30, 2024

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The lawyer's failure leads to the couple's divorce.  The judge refuses to fix it.

The lawyer's failure leads to the couple's divorce. The judge refuses to fix it.

This sounds more like a rom-com plot than real life. This kind of legal plot forces lawyers everywhere to scoff and say, “That's not the way it works.”

And after. we are here.

Lawyers in London Vardag The company mistakenly obtained a divorce for its client, known only as Ms. Williams in coverage. How exactly did that happen, you might be wondering. Well, it involves a portal, a finicky drop-down menu, and a bit of sloppiness. from Watchman:

Sir Andrew Macfarlane, head of the family division, explained that the lawyers had intended to apply for 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”.

He said the lawyers at Vardags, who were representing the wife, used the online portal “without instructions or authorization from their client”. He said the online system worked “as fast as usual now” and granted Williams' divorce order within 21 minutes.

By now you're almost certainly guessing that when the error occurred (two days later, for the record) it could have been corrected. But the judge rejected this request:

But McFarlane rejected the request and said: “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 it has created.”

He added that it was necessary to correct the impression that the online divorce portal “will issue a final order of divorce when a person is no longer wanted by simply clicking a wrong button.”

“Like many similar online processes, the operator may only reach the final screen where the final mouse click takes place after going through a series of previous screens,” he said.

There is certainly a public interest, but I'm not sure it's the way the judge thinks it is.

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Lawyer Aisha Vardaghs – the head of the company behind the error – criticized the judge, saying it was a “bad decision”. Vardag pointed out that error should not be controlling, “The state should not fire people on the basis of a clerical error.” There must be intent on the part of the divorcing person, because the principle of intent supports the fairness of our legal system.

She continued: “When a mistake is brought to the attention of the court, and everyone accepts that a mistake has been made, it obviously has to be undone… This means that at the moment, our law says that you can divorce because of a mistake you made.” On the online system. This is not right, not reasonable, and not justice.


Katherine Rubino is a senior editor at Above the Law and host of the podcast Jabot Podcastand co-host Think like a lawyer. AtL's advice is the best, so please reach out. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions or comments and follow her on Twitter @katherine1 Or mastodon @[email protected].