Introduction

On the 1st April 2013 the Coalition Government introduced severe restrictions on the availability of legal aid for family disputes. It is not likely to be available to a client in the majority of cases unless the client meets certain very strict criteria and the Legal Aid Agency estimates that it will now only be available to about 25% of the clients who used to qualify for it before 1st April 2013.

Those who receive legal aid will now have to satisfy a stringent test based not just on income levels and those clients who do not qualify under the 2013 rules will have to fund their own legal costs or buy a product such as our DIY Divorce Pack or our  Divorce Mediation Service.

Those clients who instructed a solicitor before 31st March 2013 can use the existing rules which we have set out below. Those who instruct a solicitor after that date will be unlikely  to obtain legal aid unless they can satisfy a very strict set of circumstances,  whatever their income levels.

The Legal Aid Availability Rules  for new family law cases after  31st March 2013.

Legal aid is available in these circumstances only ;-

1. Social services interventions over the welfare of a child and you are a parent of that child – legal aid is available without a financial assessment or means test

2.  You have attended mediation and require legal assistance in relation to finalising a financial agreement or agreement in relation to children residence and contact  arrangements reached during mediation sessions.

3.  You are now a  victim of domestic violence, and you need a domestic violence injunction to protect you and you have already  involved the police and you have an incident number to provide to the legal aid agency. Domestic violence is defined as “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” .  YOU MUST ALSO PASS A MEANS TEST.

4. In the last 2 years you have been  the victim of domestic violence, as defined above, and you have available one of the following pieces of evidence to provide to the legal aid agency.  YOU MUST ALSO PASS A MEANS TEST. The evidence required is:-

► a proof of conviction, not being a “spent conviction”

► a police caution for domestic violence in the previous 24 months

► criminal proceedings for domestic violence are not concluded

► you have the benefit of an injunction protecting you from domestic violence in the last 24 months

► you have the benefit of your opponent’s court undertaking (promise)  not to subject you to domestic violence  where you did not have to make the same promise to your opponent

► a letter confirming you were the victim of domestic violence in the last 24 months  from the Chairman of a multi-agency risk assessment  conference

► a copy of a finding of fact of a court  that you were the  victim of domestic violence  within the last 24 months

► a letter from a health professional,  who examined you, and which confirms that, in the last 24 months,  you had injuries or a condition consistent with you being a victim  of domestic violence.

► a letter from social services,  which confirms that, in the last 24 months,  you were assessed as being actually subject to, or  at risk of  being,  a victim  of domestic violence.

► Admission to a support organisation for domestic violence  for a period of at least 24 hours occurring within the last 24 months.

IF YOU CANNOT SATISFY THE ABOVE CRITERIA YOU ARE UNLIKELY TO QUALIFY FOR LEGAL AID.