Can I get legal aid? - Family Law

You may believe that legal aid is no longer available for family law and that consequently you cannot afford a solicitor or a barrister to advise or represent you at court. This may not be the case. 

Legal aid is still available, if you are eligible, for the following areas of family law:

  1. Domestic abuse
  2. Social service involvement with your children
  3. Where the person needing legal aid is a child under 18 who is a party to family proceedings
  4. International and domestic child abduction

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1. Domestic abuse

The definition of domestic abuse 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.

Legal aid is still therefore available for:

  • Injunctions against a violent or abusive partner or family member, including non molestation orders, occupation orders and orders under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Forced marriage protection orders

2. Social services involvement with your children

In relation to care, supervision and protection of children

3. Where the person needing legal aid is a child under 18 who is a party to family proceedings

4. International and domestic child abduction

To secure an order to prevent the unlawful removal of a child from the UK or to secure the return of a child unlawfully removed within the jurisdiction

Aside from the above areas of law, where legal aid remains available, legal aid for most children, divorce and financial matters in private family law cases was stopped in April 2013. 

Funding for these types of matters is however still available, subject to means and merits eligibility requirements (there is a means waiver for domestic abuse cases – see eligibility calculator):

  • For divorce and financial matters where you have been the victim of domestic abuse; and
  • For private child applications if you have been the victim of domestic abuse or where there are issues of child protection.

In order to qualify for legal aid however you must be able to provide supporting evidence.

What counts as evidence?

You will need to show that you or your children were at risk of harm from an ex-partner or had injuries or a condition caused by domestic abuse or violence. There is a very specific list of acceptable evidence detailed on the government website.

You can obtain this evidence from:

  • The Police
  • Your GP
  • The court
  • A multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC)
  • Social services
  • A health professional, eg a doctor, nurse, midwife, psychologist or health visitor
  • A refuge manager
  • A domestic violence support service

How to get evidence?

Legal aid is not available to help you obtain the evidence itself.

If you think you may still be eligible for legal aid, you can contact a solicitor for advice. Alternatively, you can download and print a ‘sample letter’.

This helps you get the proof you need, depending on whether:

  • You have been a victim of domestic abuse or violence
  • Your children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence

You can give the letter to the person you are asking to provide evidence. They should be able to fill in the details for you. You might have to pay a fee for this. You should then take this evidence to a solicitor who may be able to apply for legal aid for you to be advised or represented at court.

In addition to the areas of law where legal aid is still available and those where legal aid is still available if you are eligible and have the correct proof, legal aid is also still available for:

Family mediation - To resolve disputes about children and/or finances on a relationship breakdown

Exceptional funding - You may be able to instruct a solicitor to apply for legal aid for an exceptional case, if you can show that being refused legal aid would infringe:

  • Your convention rights (within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998), or
  • Any right you may have to the provision of legal services that are enforceable EU rights, or
  • That it is appropriate in the particular circumstances of your case

 

Information correct at July 2015.

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