Law firm’s mistake causes wrong couple’s divorce, judge says it can’t be reversed

A clerical error made by a clerk at a prestigious London law firm, Vardags, has led to the unintended and irreversible divorce of a couple. The mistake occurred when the clerk, processing divorce paperwork on an online portal, inadvertently selected the wrong couple, identified in court as Mr. and Mrs. Williams, from a dropdown menu. Despite still working on financial arrangements following their separation in 2023, the couple found themselves officially divorced within a remarkably short span of 21 minutes.

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This incident has sparked controversy, casting doubt on the reliability of digital processes in legal proceedings. Ayesha Vardag, the head of Vardags known as the “diva of divorce,” expressed dismay at the situation. Despite Vardags’ efforts to reverse the divorce order, a senior judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, declined to intervene, emphasizing the importance of upholding the finality and certainty of divorce decrees.

“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 McFarlane emphasized, as quoted by

Vardags admitted the mistake made by its employee but criticized the judge’s decision. Ayesha Vardag argued that allowing a simple clerical error to determine such significant life decisions undermines the foundational principles of justice and intentionality within the legal system.

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

Despite the firm’s insistence that the error was unintentional and its subsequent plea for the divorce order to be rescinded, the judge maintained that such online processes entail multiple steps, suggesting that the final click initiating the divorce was not accidental.

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“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 clarified.

The case has reignited debates about the role of technology in legal proceedings and the potential pitfalls of relying too heavily on digital platforms for sensitive matters such as divorce. As Mr and Mrs. Williams grapple with the unintended consequences of a misplaced click, the incident serves as a cautionary tale highlighting the need for greater vigilance and safeguards in online legal processes.

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