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London law firm gets wrong couple divorced due to clerical error

In an unforeseen twist, the London-based law firm Vardags found itself embroiled in an unusual predicament when it mistakenly divorced an incorrect couple, attributing the error to a simple human mistake.

The couple involved, identified as Mr. and Mrs. William, had been married for 21 years and were in the midst of negotiating the terms of their separation when the incident occurred, according to a report by TOI.

A mishap stemming from a computer error at a prestigious UK law firm led to an unintended divorce for a couple who had been married for 21 years and were in the midst of negotiations regarding their separation.

The incident, involving solicitors at London’s Vardags firm, headed by Ayesha Vardag, occurred when a final divorce order was mistakenly applied for through an online portal, despite ongoing discussions about financial arrangements for the split, as outlined in a report by the Guardian.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the family division, disclosed that the legal team intended to file for a divorce for a different client but inadvertently initiated proceedings for ‘Williams v Williams,’ leading to the unintended divorce order. McFarlane clarified that the solicitors representing the wife accessed the online portal without explicit instruction or authorization from their client. The online system swiftly processed the request, resulting in the divorce order being granted for the Williamses within a remarkably short span of 21 minutes, as per standard procedure.

The solicitors became aware of their mistake two days later and promptly sought to retract the final divorce order through the high court. They attributed the error to a simple case of misclicking, emphasizing that since the final order was erroneously sought, it should be annulled.

However, McFarlane dismissed their plea, emphasizing the paramount importance of upholding the certainty and conclusiveness inherent in a final divorce order, thereby maintaining the established status quo. He elucidated that, akin to other online procedures, reaching the final stage where the decisive click is made entails navigating through multiple preceding steps.

Ayesha Vardag, a prominent figure in UK divorce law, criticized the judge’s ruling, contending that it effectively reduced the decision-making process to a binary outcome dictated by a computer. She argued against the notion of granting divorces based solely on clerical errors, underscoring the significance of intention within the framework of legal justice. Vardag referenced her landmark 2010 ruling concerning the enforceability of German heiress Katrin Radmacher’s prenuptial agreement to underscore her stance.

Vardag disclosed her support for the solicitor responsible for the erroneous application of the final order for the Williamses, attributing the mistake to inadvertently selecting the wrong name from a drop-down menu on the divorce portal. Notably, Vardag’s legal prowess was highlighted in her securing a $79 million settlement for Pauline Chai, the wife of Laura Ashley tycoon Khoo Kay Peng, in 2017.

In addition to her legal achievements, Vardag garnered attention in 2019 for implementing a memo banning cardigans in her office. Subsequently, she introduced a revised dress code, eschewing conventional business attire in favor of more flamboyant ensembles, such as electric blue sequined jackets and gold leather trousers, reflecting a departure from traditional sartorial norms associated with corporate environments.

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