I have noticed that there are a number of sites on the internet that suggest Legal Aid for family cases has stopped altogether. However that is not the case.
It is true that as of the 1st April 2013 the government have made a number of reforms to Legal Aid and these changes have had an impact on some of our family law cases.
Although funding has been removed from certain areas there are still some cases that are covered by Legal Aid. The Family Department here at Farleys are offering free 15 minute sessions to clients to assess whether or not they are eligible under the new scheme.
It is important to remember that Legal Aid will remain available if Social Services are involved with your family. Except for actual or potential proceedings for a child to be taken in to care, to be eligible for Legal Aid a detailed assessment of your financial circumstances must be undertaken. In appropriate cases Legal Aid can be obtained to apply for an injunction against a violent partner.
For other cases where couples are divorcing, or sorting out arrangements for their children including child care agreements, there needs be specific evidence relating to domestic abuse or that there is a risk of child abuse. Legal Aid is not available to help you obtain this evidence and the evidence must be obtained before Legal Aid can be granted. This evidence can take the form of any of the following:
- Relevant unspent conviction for Domestic Violence;
- Police caution for Domestic Violence given within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application;
- Relevant protective injunction which is in force or which was granted within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application;
- Letter from chair of a multi-agency risk assessment conference, held within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application that refers to you as being a high risk victim of domestic violence;
- Copy of a finding of fact hearing, within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application;
- Letter or report from a Health professional who examined the client within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application that confirms that the client had injuries consistent with those of a victim of domestic violence;
- Letter from social services confirming that, within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application the client was assessed as being, or as being at risk of being a victim of domestic violence;
- Admission to a domestic violence support organisation for a period of at least 24 hours within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application.
Should you require further details of the evidence required this can be discussed in one of our 15 minute appointments.
If you are not eligible for Legal Aid then Farleys can offer a case management meeting with a qualified lawyer for up to an hour to discuss your case in more detail and advise you on the options available to you to deal with your case. The cost of this service is a fixed fee of £300 + VAT payable at the appointment.
Sadly, the cuts in Legal Aid have left many vulnerable people without proper access to legal advice at a very difficult and emotional stage in their life. Positive advice given at an early stage can help prevent many more problems arising later. If you feel strongly about how these cuts have affected you, I urge you to raise your concerns with your local MP.
By Barry Bunyan, Family Law Solicitor