Prime News Ghana

Wrong couple get divorced after solicitor ‘clicks wrong button’

By Primenewsghana
Ayesha Vardag, the self-styled ‘diva of divorce’, has said the judge reached a ‘bad decision’.
Ayesha Vardag, the self-styled ‘diva of divorce’, has said the judge reached a ‘bad decision’.
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A couple were divorced by mistake after solicitors at a leading law firm made a computer error but a senior judge has said it cannot be overturned.

The couple, referred to as Mr and Mrs Williams by the high court, were married for 21 years until they separated in 2023.

Solicitors at the London firm Vardags, headed by Ayesha Vardag, the self-styled “diva of divorce”, used an online portal to mistakenly apply for a final order for the couple, who were still attempting to agree financial arrangements for their split.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division, explained lawyers had intended to apply for a 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 solicitors at Vardags, who were representing the wife, used the online portal “without the instruction or authority of their client”. He said the online system operated with “its now customary speed” and granted the order divorcing the Williamses within 21 minutes.

The solicitors realised their mistake two days later and applied to the high court to rescind the final divorce order. They described the error as being simply that of someone at Vardags “clicking the wrong button” and argued that as the final order was applied for by mistake, it should be set aside.

But McFarlane rejected the application 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 that it has established.”

He added that it was necessary to correct the impression that the online divorce portal would “deliver a final order of divorce where one was not wanted simply by ‘the click of a wrong button’”.

“Like many similar online processes, an operator may only get to the final screen where the final click of the mouse is made after travelling through a series of earlier screens,” he said.

Vardag, one of the UK’s highest-paid divorce lawyers, said the judge had reached a “bad decision” and that he had “decided, effectively, ‘the computer says no, you’re divorced’”.

Vardag, who won the landmark ruling in 2010 that German heiress Katrin Radmacher’s prenuptial agreement was legally binding, added: “The state should not be divorcing people on the basis of a clerical error. There has to be intention on the part of the person divorcing, because the principle of intention underpins the justice of our legal system.

“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.”

Vardag told the Law Society Gazette that she was standing behind the solicitor who mistakenly applied for the final order for the Williamses by clicking the wrong name from a drop-down menu on the divorce portal.

Vardag won a £64m settlement for Pauline Chai, the wife of the Laura Ashley tycoon Khoo Kay Peng, in 2017.

She made headlines in 2019 after sending a memo to staff banning cardigans in the office. In a new dress code issued last year, she said staff could shun the cufflinks and business suits associated with “bankers and estate agents” and wear electric blue sequined jackets and gold leather trousers to the office instead.