Legal Aid changes – how will these affect your family?
By Emma Harraden, Hatten Wyatt
You will probably be aware that from the 1st April 2013 significant changes came into force, which affect the availability of legal aid for family law advice.
Prior to this date if you were financially eligible, the Legal Services Commission provided legal aid assistance to cover all aspects of family law, including divorce, children, financial matters, care proceedings and disputes between unmarried couples.
What family law services will be available with legal aid funding?
However from the April the 1st the scope of services covered by legal aid was reduced significantly and legal aid funding has been withdrawn for the most frequent family disputes. Unless there is an element of domestic violence, for which evidence must be provided, then you are no longer entitled to legal aid to assist you in divorce and financial matters, as well as private children act proceedings. There is still legal aid for care proceedings and to obtain injunctions.
Therefore those who are eligible for public funded legal services can now only receive legal aid for the following:
• Public family law regarding protection of children (care proceedings)
• Private family law with evidence of child abuse
• Child abduction
• Representation of children in private family cases (however not for parents or other family members)
• Legal advice in support of mediation
• Domestic violence injunction cases
• Forced marriage protection orders
Are you entitled to legal aid?
Avril Croud, Partner at Hatten Wyatt comments “It is essential that if you need the Court to resolve financial or children issues an application for public funding was made before the 31st March 2013. If an application for funding was not made by this date, you will no longer be eligible to apply for public funding and you will need to represent yourself during the Court proceedings, or pay privately for legal representation.”
If you had public funding secured before April 1st 2013, you will be entitled to continue with your matter using legal aid.
To qualify for legal aid, you’ll need to pass a means test. This considers your income and expenditure and establishes whether you are financially eligible for legal aid-funded services.