Legal Aid for Family Law

The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) came into effect in April 2013 meaning that many areas of law that previously were eligible for legal aid funding, were no longer eligible, for example divorce, separation, finances and children matters. Although there were huge cuts to legal aid in family law; several areas of family law remain in scope for legal aid funding.

Domestic Abuse

If you are at risk of domestic abuse then you may be eligible for legal aid. The legal aid cuts have not affected domestic abuse matters. If you are being harassed by a family member or ex-partner then you may qualify for legal aid to send them a warning letter to stay away from you, or an application for a Non-Molestation Order (i.e. an injunction). If you are suffering domestic abuse, contact the police and a solicitor immediately.

If you have suffered domestic abuse then you may be able to obtain legal aid funding for other family law matters such as divorce, children matters and separation matters. To be eligible for legal aid where there has been domestic abuse you need to show in the last 24 months that:

  • Your opponent has an unspent conviction for domestic abuse; or
  • Your opponent has a police caution for domestic abuse against you; or
  • Your opponent has ongoing criminal proceedings; or
  • There is an injunction in place; or
  • There is an undertaking in place; or
  • Your opponent is on police bail for a domestic abuse offence against you; or
  • A MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference) has been convened; or
  • There has been a finding of fact where findings have been made against your opponent for an offence against you; or
  • Your health has suffered as a result of the abuse and you have a letter from your GP confirming this; or
  • You have a letter from social services confirming that you are at risk of harm from your opponent; or
  • You have been refused access to a refuge or have been accommodated in a refuge; or
  • You have been referred by a health professional to a domestic abuse support service; or
  • There is a DVPO (Domestic Violence Prevention Order) in place

You will need to have proof of the above evidence to show that you are eligible for legal aid, in addition to qualifying financially. 

Children Matters – Private Law

Private law children matters include where a child lives and who a child spends time with. In the legal aid cuts, funding was removed for this area of law. However, if you meet certain criteria, then you may still be eligible. You would need to show evidence that in the last 24 months:

  • Your opponent has an unspent conviction for a child abuse offence; or
  • Your opponent has a police caution for a child abuse offence; or
  • Your opponent has ongoing criminal proceedings; or
  • There is an injunction in place; or 
  • There is an undertaking in place; or 
  • Your opponent is on police bail; or
  • There has been a finding of fact where findings have been made against your opponent; or
  • You have a letter from social services confirming that your opponent is a risk to the children; or
  • You have a child protection plan from social services that shows that your opponent is a risk to the children.

Again, you will need to have proof of the above evidence to show that you are eligible for legal aid, in addition to qualifying financially. 

Social Services/Care Proceedings

Legal aid funding remains available for any matters involving social services advice such as child in need plans, child protection plans, pre-proceedings meetings and care proceedings.

For pre-proceedings meeting (Public Law Outline meetings – PLO) you do not need to qualify financially as it is non-means, non-merits tested. This is the same for care proceedings. This means that it does not take into account your income or expenditure so you automatically qualify for legal aid.

If you receive a pre-proceedings letter or care proceedings have been issued, you need to contact a solicitor immediately. 

Forced Marriage

Legal aid funding remains available for matters concerning forced marriage. Advice can be offered and injunctions may be applied for to protect a person at risk of forced marriage. 

If legal aid is available, do you qualify financially?

In addition to being in scope, you would also need to be financially eligible for legal aid. Your last three months’ income and expenditure are taken into account when considering if you are financially eligible for legal aid. You are assessed both on capital i.e. a house/car/savings/investments and also on your income i.e. salary/state benefits. If you have a partner who is not the person you are seeking legal aid against, then their income will also be taken into account.

When assessing financial eligibility for legal aid, not all of your expenditure is taken into account. Only your rent/mortgage, allowances for dependants, tax and National Insurance, maintenance payments you are making and any child care costs are considered as expenditure. This means that any loans or living expenses are sadly not taken into account for the purposes of the legal aid assessment.

We offer a free legal aid assessment however you may wish to have an idea of whether you would be eligible before this appointment. The Legal Aid Agency has a facility on their website where you can enter your financial details to establish whether you would be eligible for funding. This can be found at http://civil-eligibility-calculator.justice.gov.uk/ 

Do I have to pay anything towards my legal aid?

Depending on your capital and income levels, you may have to pay a contribution towards your legal aid. This might be from your capital, i.e. a one-off payment, or from your income, i.e. a certain amount every month.

If as a result of your case you obtain or retain money or property then you may have to pay back some or all of your legal aid. Legal aid is a little like a loan in this respect. This is called the statutory charge. This normally attaches in cases such as divorce and finances where parties are arguing over houses and money.

What do I do if I want a legal aid assessment?

We offer a free legal aid assessment. You can contact us via our website and we will call you back at a time that suits you. In order to complete the legal aid assessment we will need to take details of your case together with proof of your last three months’ banks statements and wage slips. We will also need to see your partner’s proof of income if applicable.

Please contact us by calling 0845 894 1622 or by emailing info@cartwrightking.co.uk

 

CONTACT
For further information please get in touch with our dedicated team.

You can always call us on 0808 168 5550 or email us on info@cartwrightking.co.uk

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