Apr 24, 2024

Divorce has become so easy that a couple were divorced by mistake after an administrative error at a family law firm.

The couple, Mr and Mrs Williams, were divorced by a court after a staff member at Vardag’s accidentally opened their computer file when trying to apply for a final divorce order for someone else.

The error was picked up within days but Judge Sir Andrew McFarlane refused the application to rescind the order. He said it was not “rendered voidable” by Mrs Williams’ lack of consent as her solicitors were “generally authorised to act for her and the court was entitled to accept the application for the final order made by them as being validly made on her behalf”.

This bizarre ‘computer says no’ story makes a little more sense when you realise that Mrs Williams had applied for divorce but there was ongoing wrangling over the financial settlement.

But it demonstrates how shockingly easy it is for marriages to be ended following the recent reforms that permitted unilateral divorce without the need to prove fault. Judge McFarlane noted that the court’s computer system granted the divorce order just 21 minutes after the application was submitted by the lawyers, “with its now customary speed”.

One divorce expert, Fiona Turner, a partner at Weightmans law firm, reports a 25 per cent rise in people applying for divorce and says the easy online access has led to scorned spouses jumping into it without fully considering the consequences.

“One big thing is that now you can sort out your divorce online, which is super handy,” she told the Mirror. “It means you can start the process without having to leave your house. However, this has led to some folks maybe rushing into it without thinking it all the way through.”

While there may be valid reasons to end a marriage, it’s wrong that divorce can now be initiated simply by one person clicking a button on a website. C4M called no-fault divorce a marriage wrecker’s charter from the start and predicted the surge in separations that has come to pass. Ending a marriage is now easier than getting out of a mobile phone contract.

Public policy should uphold man-woman marriage as the foundation of a stable, thriving society that puts the needs of children first. Instead, what we have is divorce via smartphone. We must do better.