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Is Legal Aid available for Family matters?

View profile for Kim Denton
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The answer is yes but only in certain circumstances.

Someone wishing to apply for an injunction under the Family Law Act 1996 will be eligible for legal aid.  Depending on their financial situation they may have to pay a contribution towards their legal aid. 

Legal aid for other family matters such as divorce, finances, and children’s issues is generally only available where the Applicant can show that they are a victim of domestic abuse or the proceedings are to protect a child at risk of abuse from a third party.  A client must also satisfy financial means.  Someone in receipt of a ‘passported’ benefit such as Income Support will qualify. 

The definition of ‘domestic violence’ as stated by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) is

‘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’

To be eligible for legal help or legal aid clients must produce certain specified evidence of the abuse they have experienced. The evidence required is set out in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).  This was changed in January 2018 to make it easier for victims to access the necessary evidence.  Previously there was a time limit on this evidence but this has now been removed. 

Evidence accepted includes letters from GP’s, midwife’s, nurses, health visitors, social workers, domestic violence support services (such as IDAS), housing officers, evidence from criminal proceedings pertaining to domestic abuse, police cautions, protective injunctions and financial abuse.  A full list of these can be found at:- https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672143/evidence-requirements-private-family-law-matters-guidance-version-8.pdf

Template letters are also available online at:-https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sample-letters-to-get-evidence-of-domestic-violence

Given the recent changes to LASPO in January 2018 it has become a little easier to obtain the relevant evidence to enable a client to qualify for Legal Help/Legal Aid to assist in Family matters.

If a client does qualify for legal aid and at the end of the case recovers or preserves property they may have to pay some or all of the costs of the case.  This is called the ‘Statutory Charge’.

Should you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family Law Team at any of our offices. 

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