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British couple's divorce finalized by clerical error

A legal team's clerical error in a computer system led to a British couple accidentally becoming divorced. Photo by Activedia/Pixabay
A legal team's clerical error in a computer system led to a British couple accidentally becoming divorced. Photo by Activedia/Pixabay

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April 18 (UPI) -- An estranged British couple found their 21-year marriage unexpectedly ended when a lawn firm's clerical error finalized their divorce.

The couple, identified only as Mr. and Mrs. Williams, separated in 2023 and were in the process of working out the financial details of their marriage's impending end when they accidentally became divorced as a result of a mistake by the wife's representatives at London law firm Vardags.

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The firm, headed by self-proclaimed "diva of divorce" Ayesha Vardag, explained the couple's divorce was the result of a clerical error.

Vardag said the lawyers were working on another client's divorce when they opened the Williams' case file by mistake and applied for a final divorce order.

Lawyers discovered the mistake two days later and Vardags asked the High Court to nullify the Williams' divorce, but Andrew McFarlane, the president of the Family Division, rejected the appeal.

"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 said in his decision.

Vardag said she strongly disagrees with McFarlane's decision.

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"The courts shouldn't change people's marital status based on a slip on an online portal. Whether the person makes the slip themselves or their lawyer does. It goes against the principle of intention which suffuses our law," she told the Law Society Gazette.

Julian Ribet, whose firm, Ribet Myles, represents Mr. Williams, supported the judge's decision.

"The wife's solicitors hoped that the order would be treated as an administrative error and deemed never to have existed," Ribet said. "We objected on the basis that the divorce had been properly applied for, and was therefore effective, notwithstanding the fact that the wife's solicitors had in fact applied on behalf of the wrong client."

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