Time is running out for many to obtain legal aid to ascertain family law advice. Severe restrictions on the availability of Family Legal Aid are to be introduced immediately after Easter 2013.
From the beginning of April, Legal Aid for care, injunction and forced marriage proceedings will remain unchanged but for all other cases including child residence or contact disputes, divorce and financial proceedings, Legal Aid will only be available for parties who can provide evidence they are, or are at risk of being a victim of domestic violence or, in children cases, seeking to protect a child from the risk of abuse. There are specific definitions of domestic violence and abuse and also strict rules as to what will be acceptable evidence of that. Legal Aid will only be granted once suitable evidence can be provided by you and Legal Aid will not be available to help obtain that evidence.
Additional caps are also to be introduced in relation to how much capital certain Legal Aid Applicants can have and how much of any disputed assets can be ignored for assessment purposes in financial cases.
A new form of Legal Aid is to be introduced to provide advice and assistance where someone is undertaking family mediation. For this form of Legal Aid, you will not need to show that you are a victim of domestic violence but you will need to be actively involved in the mediation process.
The majority of Family lawyers fear that these cuts will lead to many more unresolved disputes impacting significantly on separating couples and, more importantly, any children involved. If you need help from a specialist Family lawyer and believe that you may be eligible for Legal Aid then don't delay.
By Barry Bunyan, Divorce Solicitor, Blackburn