Changes to legal aid

Legal aid changes

On 1st April 2013 new rules came into force which have severely restricted the availability of legal aid in all cases involving family disputes relating to divorce, separation, children and financial matters.

These changes have been made by the government in order to cut spending. Most family lawyers agree that the new rules are unfair and will put people on low incomes at a serious disadvantage.

Find out whether legal aid is still available for your type of case

  • If you are applying for an injunction to protect yourself from harassment or domestic violence.[EXPAND read more] Legal aid is still available if you need advice about obtaining an injunction to protect yourself from domestic violence or harassment, or if you need an injunction for your husband/wife/partner to leave the home. Legal aid is likely to be available provided you qualify on financial grounds and provided your case is assessed as being “strong” enough to justify legal aid.[/EXPAND]
  • To help you deal with divorce or separation and related financial and property matters but only if you can prove that you are at risk of domestic violence.[EXPAND read more] Domestic violence can include any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (whether psychological, physical, sexual,financial or emotional) between individuals who are associated with each other. You will need to be able to “prove” that you have suffered or at risk of suffering domestic violence. Find out more about the evidence you will need to prove “domestic violence”.[/EXPAND]
  • In children cases but only if you can prove that you are at risk of domestic violence or the child is at risk of abuse from another person[EXPAND read more] Domestic violence can include any incident, or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (whether psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between individuals who are associated with each other. Abuse (in relation to a child) means physical or mental abuse and includes sexual abuse and abuse in the form of violence, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation. You will need to be able to “prove” that you have suffered or at risk of suffering domestic violence or that your child is at risk of abuse. Find out more about the evidence you will need to prove “domestic violence” and the evidence that you will need to prove a “risk of abuse” [/EXPAND]
  • When a child is at risk of being unlawfully removed from your care. [EXPAND read more] Legal aid is likely to be available (provided you qualify on financial grounds and provided your case is assessed as being “strong” enough to justify legal aid) if your child is at risk of being taken out of the UK to enable you to apply to court to prevent this happening. Strangely the government has decided that legal aid will not be available if your child is simply at risk of being unlawfully removed to somewhere else in the UK.[/EXPAND]
  • Your child has already been unlawfully removed from your care.[EXPAND read more]Legal aid is likely to be available (provided you qualify on financial grounds and provided your case is assessed as being “strong” enough to justify legal aid) whether your child has been unlawfully removed within the UK or taken outside the UK.[/EXPAND]
  • If you are actively involved in mediation and are seeking advice about the mediation process.[EXPAND read more] You will need to be actively involved in mediation and not just thinking about it or seeking advice about whether or not you should go to mediation. Legal aid is likely to be available provided you qualify on financial grounds and provided your case is assessed as being “strong” enough to justify legal aid. [/EXPAND]
  • If you are a child who is involved directly in court proceedings relating to a family matter. [EXPAND read more]Although it’s unusual for children (anyone under 18) to play a direct role in court proceedings it does happen and in such cases you will probably be entitled to legal aid provided you qualify on financial grounds and provided your case is assessed as being “strong” enough to justify legal aid. [/EXPAND]
  • If social services are concerned about your child/children.[EXPAND read more] Legal aid in social services cases has not changed. If you are a parent of the child concerned, or if you have parental responsibility for the child, and if social services are taking you to court, or have asked you to come to a “pre-proceedings meeting” then legal aid will probably be available whatever your financial circumstances. In other cases involving social services legal aid may still be available provided you qualify on financial grounds and provided your case is assessed as being “strong” enough to justify legal aid.[/EXPAND]

The new rules are complex and this is only a brief summary. You can read them in full on the government website.

Please do consult us for advice about your own situation. Take advantage of our fixed fee first appointment at a cost of £30. We will advise you about legal aid and about other ways of covering your legal costs. If we establish that you are entitled to legal aid we will refund the £30 fee.

We offer a range of fixed fees for most of our services including divorce, finance and property disputes and children disputes.

If you want to keep the cost down even further, find out about our DIY package, where you run your case but we provide help and advice in the background when you need it.

Please note that these changes do not affect the availability of legal aid in cases involving social services, such as court proceedings for care and supervision orders.

 

 

 

 

 

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