Legal aid used to be available for the vast majority of family cases; however from 1 April 2013 this is no longer to be the case. However, legal aid is still available if you have problems with the local authority concerning your children. Most notably, legal aid continues to be available for care proceedings. However, as to proceedings between private individuals say for example divorce, residence and contact (this used to be called custody and access) as well as financial claims generally this will not be available unless there has been domestic violence. Legal aid will still be available in certain cases whether or not there has been domestic violence. This includes child abduction cases, domestic violence injunctions, support with mediation and forced marriage protection order cases.
Additionally in very rare circumstances, without you having to demonstrate that you are the victim of domestic violence, legal aid may be available for “exceptional cases”. Legal aid in these cases will only be granted if you can show that it is a breach of your human rights by not being granted legal aid. It is envisaged that legal aid would be granted in only the most complex of cases as the government are of the view that most people should be able to represent themselves.
The government has defined domestic violence to include non-physical abuse, however so as to obtain legal aid, you would need to provide original evidence at your own expense of one of the following:
- Either a conviction or a caution or a finding of fact hearing that you have been the victim of domestic violence within twenty-four months immediately preceding an application for legal aid.
- An undertaking given by your opponent under what is called section 46 of the Family Law Act 1996 (without there having been cross-undertakings).
- A letter from the chair of MARAC confirming that you have been determined by MARAC as a high risk victim of domestic violence and you have had a protection plan put in place protecting you from harm by your opponent within twenty-four months immediately preceding the date of applying for legal aid.
- A letter from your doctor or a medical report from the GMC confirming that a doctor has examined you within the last twenty-four months and is satisfied that you have had injuries or a condition “consistent with those of a victim of domestic violence” and that the doctor has no reason to believe that the injuries or condition were not caused by domestic violence.
- Similarly a letter from social services department confirming that you have been assessed as being or at risk of being a victim of domestic violence from your opponent in the past twenty-four months preceding an application for legal aid.
- A letter from a domestic violence support organisation confirming that you had been admitted to a woman’s refuge for a minimum period of at least 24 hours, specifically as a victim or at risk of being a victim of domestic violence again, within a twenty-four month time frame. In this case, any letters must give dates upon which you were admitted and left the refuge and the reason for the admission, stating that the admission was as a result of domestic abuse.
- In addition, legal aid may be available where it is necessary to protect a child from abuse, which again includes a relevant court conviction or police caution in relation to a number of listed child abuse offences. A letter from social services can possibly be considered to be good evidence.
- The above are examples and do not pretend to be exhaustive and are not a statement of the law and regulations.
Therefore, if you would like to discuss and obtain some advice concerning matters for which legal aid is no longer available then one of our experienced family lawyers at Wiseman Lee LLP will be able to provide you with some preliminary advice. This will take place at our East Ham office.
This service is available at a discounted rate to those who would normally receive legal aid. This service will not be available for those who would not previously have been entitled to legal aid. For £175 plus VAT you will be able to see one of our experienced family lawyers who will be able to give you advice face to face and spend probably around up to forty-five minutes with you. This will enable a file to be opened and this will be followed by advice to you in writing. The £175 will exclude VAT but include minor disbursements.
If you decide to take up this offer then the lawyer will be able to advise and provide an estimate of any further fees. If you decide that you do not wish to take the matter further then it will end there. However, the lawyer would be happy to provide you with some blank forms if you wish to issue any applications in court yourself because you may find it too expensive to instruct Wiseman Lee LLP to deal with your case.
If you would like to take advantage of this offer then you would need to speak to a member of the team in the family law department. He or she will arrange for you to come in with some photographic ID such as a passport or driving licence, a recent utility bill and payment. Payment can be made either in cash or by debit card. At that point in time, an appointment will be made for you to see a family lawyer so as to provide you with preliminary advice. Please visit our website at www.wiseman.co.uk
We do not make referrals, however we are able to signpost people to other organisations. There is a civil legal advice telephone number that you may wish to call which is 0845 345 4345. The minicom number is 0845 609 6677. You can also text “legal aid” together with your name to 80010. The legal aid website for the public is www.gov.uk/legal-aid. There is an independent not for profit website which can possibly assist at www.advicenow.org.uk.