Important changes came into effect on 1st April 2013 in relation to Family Law Legal Aid. In an effort to reduce public spending the Government has severely restricted the availability of Legal Aid for family law cases.
Legal Aid is where the Government pays your legal costs or part of them when you are unable to afford them subject to a means test and the merits of a case. Although you may be required to repay the costs or part of them if you were to receive money or property from a settlement.
The most radical change is that Legal Aid is no longer available for normal family law matters unless certain criteria is met.
Legal Aid will however continue to be available for:
- All Public Family Law regarding protection of children (Care Proceedings)
- All Family Injunctions, non-molestation orders, Forced Marriages Protection Order and other protective orders
- Children under 18 whether an applicant, Respondent or joined as a party
- International and child abduction and the unlawful removal of a child within the UK
- Legal Advice in Support of Mediation
Other disputes relating to children, divorce and finance will not be within the scope of legal aid unless there has been, or there is a risk of, domestic violence or in children cases, if a child, who would be the subject of the order, is at risk of child abuse from an individual who would be a party to the proceedings.
Therefore if you are a victim of domestic violence/abuse and are divorcing or separating from an abusive partner or former partner you may still be eligible for legal aid on production of certain evidence. The types of evidence include among others a criminal conviction or police caution in respect of a domestic violent offence, Family Protective Injunction, Undertaking given in Court, MARAC plan, a letter from a medical professional which could be a GP, a letter from Social Services or Admission to a refuge. Full details of evidence are set out on the Ministry of Justice website: www.justice.gov.uk/legal-aid-divorcing-separating-abusive-partner. Similar evidence would be required to receive legal aid in advising and representing parents in issues relating to their children.
We understand that divorce can be stressful and an emotional time and we wish to continue to assist our clients in minimising any uncertainty as to the legal costs in such cases.
Our family department will continue to offer a 30 minute free advice appointment to discuss your particular case and to assess whether you may be eligible for Legal Aid. Thereafter all work in relation to an uncontested divorce would be undertaken on the basis of a straightforward fixed fee arrangement
With T A Matthews fixed fee arrangement for an uncontested divorce you would know exactly where you stand and you are able to make realistic arrangements to pay your legal expenses.