The most recent legal aid and Family Court statistics have been published covering the quarter April to June 2017. These show a continuing overall trend in the number of family cases receiving help by way of legal aid.
Severe restrictions in the availability of legal aid for family cases were introduced in April 2013. The latest figures show that the number of family cases starting under Legal Help fell by 13% over the same quarter in 2016. Legal Helps now stand at less than one third of what they were before the April 2013 changes.
Legal Help is an ‘entry-level’ form of legal aid to advise and assist in trying to resolve matters without going to court. In introducing these changes the government sought to encourage more couples to use mediation to resolve their disputes instead of going to court. However that does not seem to be the case. The number of mediation starts has fallen by almost a quarter, down 24%.
While there is a small increase of 6% in the number of legal aid certificates granted for family cases, this is mainly down to an increase in public law cases, ie where the local authority are involved with children. These cases increased by 15% whereas certificates for private law applications between parents fell by 12%.
It would be nice to think that this is an indication that more couples are now able to resolve their differences without outside assistance but I doubt that is actually the case. My fear is that this means there are more unresolved problems that the parties involved are unable to take steps to remedy. They cannot afford to access proper legal advice to point them in the right direction and / or feel unable to take the appropriate action to seek help from the court where necessary. Indeed the number of cases started in the Family Court in that quarter fell by 4% (the main decreases being in matrimonial and adoption cases).
If you require assistance in relation to a family law matter, Farleys family law solicitors can help. Get in touch on 0845 287 0939 or contact us online.