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It was well publicised in April 2013 that Legal Aid was cut drastically within family law. Despite the cuts to Legal Aid, it is still available in certain circumstances.
At Ramsdens we are proud to be a firm that is appointed by the Legal Aid Agency to provide Legal Aid to our clients within family matters.
Legal aid can help you pay for legal advice, family mediation and representation at Court.
Legal Aid is available to people that have been subject to domestic abuse or are at risk of suffering domestic abuse or children that are in need of protection.
Domestic abuse can take many forms and includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.
If you have suffered domestic abuse or your case is deemed to be exceptional, then Legal Aid is available in the following areas of family law:
Legal Aid is available for people that are in receipt of certain benefits or for those that are on a low income.
As well as evidence to prove your financial position such as a recent letter detailing the benefits you receive, bank statements and wage slips, the Legal Aid Agency will require evidence of domestic abuse.
The Legal Aid Agency will accept the following documents as evidence that you have been subject to domestic abuse or a child is at risk (this must be no more than 2 years old):
A criminal conviction (If your ex-partner has a criminal conviction in the UK for a domestic abuse offence against you).
Police caution (if your ex-partner has been given a formal Police caution for a domestic abuse offence against you in the UK, this can be used as evidence. You may also obtain written confirmation of the formal caution from the Police on letterhead paper).
Police bail(if your ex-partner has been given relevant Police bail pending charge for a domestic abuse offence against you in the UK where the bail is current)
Ongoing criminal proceedings. (if your ex-partner has been charged with a domestic abuse offence against you within the UK, but has yet to be convicted)
Evidence of a projective injunction: Non-Molestation Order; Occupation Order; Forced Marriage Protection Order; Restraining Order.
An undertaking given in place of a protective injunction - a promise given by your ex-partner to the Court that he/she will be prohibited from doing certain things such as, threaten you, communicate with you, come within a specified distance to your property.
Evidence of being subject to a MARAC plan (multi-agency risk assessment conference) - If a MARAC has made a plan to protect you from your ex-partner, then this can be used as evidence. You will need a letter from the MARAC Chairman which confirms that they have made a plan to protect you from your ex-partner within the last two years.
A letter from a health professional - this includes; doctor (including a GP), nurse, midwife, practitioner, psychologist or health visitor. The letter must be:
Evidence from Social Services - If social services have assessed you in the last two years as being at risk of domestic abuse by your ex-partner, then this can be used as evidence. You will need a copy of the assessment showing both your name and your ex-partner's name as the abuser.
Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPOs) - If a DVPO (or a Domestic Violence Protection Notice, where this has not been replaced by a DVPO) has been made against your ex-partner within a twenty-four-month period before the date of your application.
Evidence of referral to domestic abuse support services from a health professional - if you have been referred by your GP or other health professional to a domestic abuse specialist support service, and you have the referral document or a letter from the domestic violence support services or health professional that referred you confirming that you were referred.
Evidence of staying in a refuge or not being able to access refuge accommodation due to insufficient accommodation:
Binding over Order for a domestic abuse offence - If your ex-partner has been given a bind over in relation to an alleged domestic abuse offence against you in the UK.
Finding of fact hearing - If there has been a finding of fact in a UK court of domestic abuse against you by your ex-partner, then you would need to provide the Court Order that recorded the finding of fact.
In addition to having to demonstrate that you are a victim of domestic abuse or are at risk of suffering from domestic abuse, Legal Aid is means and merits tested.
This relates to your financial situation. You have to prove that you are unable to fund the cost of your legal fees yourself.
If you are in receipt of the following benefits then you will automatically be financially eligible to Legal Aid as these benefits are "passport benefits":
If you are in receipt of a passport benefit, you will no longer be eligible for Legal Aid if you have capital worth more than £100,000.
If you have a job you may still be eligible for Legal Aid however, in these circumstances you may have to make a contribution towards the payment of your legal fees.
If you have a partner, his or her income will be taken into account in the financial assessment.
Some family law matters are assessed based on their merits. This means that to qualify you must have a good chance of success and the benefit you will receive from commencing legal proceedings must exceed the cost of the proceedings. It must be clear to the Legal Aid Agency that you have a 50% chance or higher of succeeding.
You will be required to provide evidence of your financial status to support your application.
If you do not qualify for Legal Aid, but you are unable to meet the cost of your legal fees, and you would have been eligible financially, but you do not have the requisite evidence for domestic abuse, please contact us to discuss alternatives such as reduced fees.