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Family Legal Aid - Where are we now?

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Family Law based situations are difficult enough without the worry of how you have to finance a case. For those of us fortunate enough to have the funds to pay for legal advice, help and expertise is available. There are many people that are confused about what they are entitled to. Legal Aid is not available to everyone.

Previously legal aid was available for those who had low or no income. However, in April 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force. This changed the basis for Legal Aid throughout England and Wales, severely restricting the number of people who are eligible for legal aid. This has left a lot of people unable to seek the advice they need with their matter.

Let’s be clear Legal Aid is still available regardless of your financial situation for cases involving Care Proceedings and Pre Proceedings Meetings (Public Law Outline meetings) and child abduction if you have parental responsibility for the child(ren) involved.

It’s the rest of the matters (or for those who do not have parental responsibility in the instances above) which people get confused about. Whether you qualify for legal aid will depend on, the type of case you’re involved in and whether you are financially eligible.

Starting with financial eligibility please use this link which would guide you through the first gateway: http://civil-eligibility-calculator.justice.gov.uk/ . To assist your solicitor please ensure you provide documentary evidence and that is up to date. E.g. A benefit letter dated within the last 30 days, bank statements for all accounts for the last 3 months, tenancy agreements, 3 months/6 weeks pay slips etc. Any out of date documents could cause delay.

Something which people forget about is the possibility that legal aid is not free. If you recover or preserve assets in your case then you may have to pay some of the costs upfront or pay back some/all of the costs if you win money or property from your case. This is known as the statutory charge. Greater detail on this can be found on the Legal Aid Agency’s website.

The merit aspect of a legal aid application is a lot more difficult to satisfy as you have to meet the criteria of either being a victim of domestic violence https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sample-letters-to-get-evidence-of-domestic-violence or that your child has been the victim of domestic abuse https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sample-letters-to-get-evidence-of-child-abuse .

It would assist any solicitor if you have the documentary evidence listed from the above links when your visit the office. If the situation is more urgent and requires a Non-Molestation or other protective order you can discuss the options with your solicitor at that time.

The solicitors at F Barnes have a lot of experience in applying for legal aid and will be able to advise you if this is an option for your case. The points above can hopefully help you in understanding what we need to do the assessment for you.

For advice on any of the above please contact our family department for a FREE 30 minute, no obligation, appointment on 01708 745183