Legal aid for family law issues
There are two common misconceptions regarding legal aid and family law matters - one being that legal aid is available for all family matters for those on low income or with no savings, and the other being that legal aid isn’t available for any family matters at all. These are both false.
In 2013, the availability of legal aid for family matters changed, and ever since there has been a great deal of confusion as to who is entitled to legal aid and who isn’t.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid is financial assistance from the government to help cover legal costs for those who cannot afford them. The Legal Aid Agency cover these costs from public funds, and the money can be used to pay for legal advice, paperwork assistance, negotiations, mediation and course representation. Legal aid may not cover all fees in all cases, as some can require a financial contribution to be paid either during the course of the proceedings or at the conclusion. There may also be some limitation of the work that can be undertaken depending on the type of legal aid that is required.
How can I get legal aid?
In some cases legal aid is automatically available, but for most matters a legal aid request is subject to a means and merits assessment. The following will be considered during the assessment:
- Is the legal matter within the scope of legal aid and is it a sufficiently serious matter?
- Does the income of the individual requesting legal aid fall below the financial threshold to qualify for assistance?
- What is the likelihood of succeeding within the proceedings?
What family matters can I get legal aid for?
The most common family matters that legal aid can be applied for includes, but is not limited to:
- Matters that involve the Local Authority whereby a care order application is being considered or has been applied for - In this instance, legal aid is automatic and is not subject to any means or merits test
- Non-molestation order or occupation order to protect yourself and/or your children.
- Forced marriage protection order
- Child arrangements order, prohibited steps order or specific issue order
- Family mediation relating to children and finances following the end of a relationship
- Divorce and finance for those who have been in an abusive relationship
- Special circumstances where refusal of legal aid would infringe rights under the European Convention on Human rights
Aside from matters involving a care order, all matters listed above are subject to the means and merits assessment. Written evidence may also be required documenting risk to a child or evidence of domestic abuse.
How can I apply for legal aid?
You can apply for legal aid through your solicitor. Depending on your reason for seeking legal aid, you will need to provide evidence of your income, including bank statements, wage slips and any benefit entitlements. If you’re in a relationship, both partners will need to produce these documents. You may also need to obtain written evidence of either risk to a child or domestic abuse depending on the type of matter. You can view a list of acceptable evidence that can be used for this matter on the government website, though be aware that legal aid is not available to help obtain the evidence.
Here at Fonseca Law, we cover a wide range of legal services that cover many areas. Our team of expert solicitors have a wealth of experience that can advise on various aspects of the law and much more. Contact us today by calling 01495 303124, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by completing our online contact form.