From 1st April 2013 legal aid has not been available to help people with the legal costs associated with both divorce and disputes relating to children and finances.
There are a few exceptions to this, but these are limited. You can still obtain legal aid if you are financially eligible and:
• You are a victim of, or there is a risk of, domestic violence.
• You have a child dispute and the child has been abused, or is at risk of abuse from an individual involved in the Court case.
• Your child is abducted overseas.
This list is not exhaustive but it identifies the main types of case where you can still obtain legal aid if you are on a low income. So, if you need an injunction order relating to domestic violence incidents, or your child is in the care system and you have a social worker, or your ex-partner is taking or has taken your child overseas without your permission, you may still be able to obtain legal aid.
There are some new rules which have been introduced which make it more difficult to obtain legal aid. Either you or your solicitor will need to submit documentation to the Legal Aid Agency in support of your application. For example, if you are a victim of domestic violence one of the documents that could be submitted is a report from a doctor confirming that you have been examined and have some recent injuries which would be consistent with an assault.
If you are on a low income but none of these types of cases applies to your situation then you can still obtain legal aid to help with the cost of family mediation. Emsleys Family Mediation Service offers legal aid for family mediation.
If you don’t want to mediate, then there are some ‘free’ options available to you:
1. Most solicitors will offer a free first consultation meeting to give you some initial legal advice. Emsleys offers this to all its client.
2. Some Citizens Advice Bureaus have a family solicitor and they may be able to set up a free appointment for you.
3. Some Courts (though Leeds is not one of them) offer a service run by local solicitors for free legal advice and representation at Court. You could check with your Court before any hearing to see if there is such a scheme in place.
4. In some areas of the country, pilot schemes are in operation to help vulnerable people find the right service for them. For example there is a pilot scheme in Crewe, Newcastle and Oxford called Family Matters which helps people on low income with family problems by directing them to relevant services.
5. ‘Relate’ are in the process of setting up an online support service for those wanting to overcome their “practical and emotional barriers to working together to support children”.
6. The internet is a good source of free information but more often than not it does not give advice.
7. The Court service has a series of leaflets to help you through legal proceedings.
8. You can be accompanied in Court by a ‘McKenzie friend’ – someone that can offer you help during a hearing, but cannot actually speak on your behalf.
The ‘free’ help you can get is limited. If you need advice or representation beyond this, it is important to choose a solicitor who can offer payment terms to suit your individual needs. Emsleys has a range of flexible payment options and fixed fee services to assist clients with their cash flow.Back to Blog