Breaking the Myth that Legal Aid Has Been Abolished

Breaking the Myth that Legal Aid Has Been Abolished


Wendy Hewstone published an article in Law Plain and Simple entitled “Breaking the Myth that Legal Aid Has Been Abolished” describing when Legal Aid is available.

“There is a misunderstanding that Legal Aid has been cancelled  since April 2013… For family cases, Legal Aid is still available either for a specific type of case or if you qualify on certain grounds”

Breaking the Myth that Legal Aid Has Been Abolished

There is a misunderstanding that Legal Aid has been cancelled since April 2013 when the law changed[1].

For Family cases, legal aid is still available, either for a specific type of case or if you qualify on certain grounds.

The cases where legal aid is still automatically available are:

  • Care cases. Where the Local Authority is concerned about how you care for a child and believe they should be involved and possibly look to remove the child permanently. Legal aid is available to negotiate with the Local Authority and to represent you in the Court proceedings. It is free for Court cases regardless of your finances.
  • Mediation. This is not counselling or therapy but an opportunity to determine matters between you[2]. It is compulsory normally to attend mediation before you apply to Court for an Order in relation to children or finances[3]. Legal Aid is available if your income and capital is below a certain level for mediation itself and also if mediation progresses with both parties involved, it can cover the cost of seeking advice from a Solicitor.
  • Injunctions. If you have suffered domestic violence, which can include psychological and emotional harm as well as physical, legal aid is still available for a Court Order to apply to keep the aggressor away from you and not assault or harass you in the future. You need to qualify on the finances grounds (see above) and legal aid can be available if you need to defend an application for an injunction.
  • Child Abduction. If a child is removed wrongfully from another country then legal aid is available to try and recover the child or defend an application that you have wrongfully removed a child [4]. It is also available if a child is taken in this country but not usually granted if both parents have parental responsibility[5]. Again, it may be subject to finances; it depends on the type of case.

Legal aid is also available for other family cases but not automatically.

Legal aid is obtainable for Divorce; Children and Finance cases provided you qualify through the “Domestic Abuse” gateway. Basically, if you can show your opponent (which need not necessarily be an ex-partner, it can be a family member) has caused you domestic violence and this has either occurred in the previous two years or been recorded (such as in a medical report or by a Court order) in the last two years, then you can qualify [6].

There are various ways you can qualify, including a Court order, medical report, convictions, staying in a refuge and so on. The link to the legal aid site below sets out the ways you can qualify. Again, you have to come within financial limits.

There is a final route for family legal where you can apply for exceptional funding. You would have to show you need support through the process, maybe because of mental health or learning difficulties or where the case is incredibly complex. . Not many applications have been granted yet.

Our firm still offers legal aid[7] and you can also find a local legal aid firm on the Government website[8]. If you do not qualify for legal aid, many firms offer low cost initial interviews.

 

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