This is a question that I am frequently asked.  There are two common misconceptions that I often hear:-

  • Legal aid is available for all family matters if you are on a low income or have no savings

  • Legal aid is not available for any family matters

Both of these statements are false.

The availability of legal aid for family matters was changed in 2013, yet despite this there still appears to be much confusion as to who can and cannot get it.

So what is legal aid?

Legal aid is money to pay a solicitor/barrister to represent you, paid by the Legal Aid Agency from public funds.  It can be used for legal advice, assistance with paperwork, negotiations, mediation and representation in court.  Legal aid might not cover all your fees, some cases can require a financial contribution to be paid either during the course of the proceedings or at the conclusion and there may be some limitations on the work which can be undertaken depending on the type of legal aid.

How to get legal aid?

With the exception of some matters for which legal aid is automatically available, most matters for which legal aid is requested are subject to assessment as follows:-

  1. Is the matter within the scope of legal aid and is it sufficiently serious?

  2. Means test – does your income fall below the financial threshold to qualify you for assistance?

  3. Merits test – the likelihood of succeeding within the proceedings

What can I get legal aid for?

Below is the list of the most common family matters for which legal aid is used, but not limited to:

  • Matters involving the Local Authority where a care order application is being considered or has been applied for – legal aid for this matter is automatic and is not subject to the means/merits test

  • Applications for a non-molestation order or occupation order to protect yourself or your children

  • Applications for a forced marriage protection order

  • Applications for a Child arrangements order, prohibited steps order or specific issue order

  • Family mediation to resolve disputes about children and finance following a relationship breakdown

  • Divorce and finance if you have been in an abusive relationship

  • Exceptional cases where the refusal of legal aid would infringe your rights under the European Convention on Human rights

With the exception of matters involving a care order, all the above matters are subject to means and merits testing.  The merits test may also require written evidence documenting either risk to a child or evidence of domestic abuse.

How do I apply for legal aid?

Depending on the type of matter you are seeking legal aid for, you will need to provide evidence of your income, including bank statements, wage slips and benefit entitlement.  If you are in a relationship you need to produce your partner’s/spouse’s documents also.  You may need to obtain written evidence of either risk to a child or domestic abuse depending on the type of matter.  The list of acceptable evidence is detailed on the government website.

We can also discuss the requirements with you directly if you are unsure.  Legal aid is not available to help obtain the evidence itself.

Not all solicitors offer advice and assistance under legal aid.  Our experience family team at Farleys are able to provide legal aid for a wide spectrum of family matters subject to your eligibility.  Please do not assume that you will not qualify for legal aid, get in touch with us today to discuss your eligibility and your options.

To make an appointment or for more information call us on 0845 287 0939 or submit a query online today.