Our Middlesbrough Solicitor writes about the legal aid changes to family law;-
So the 1st April 2013 has brought major changes to welfare and benefits and your entitlement to legal aid – but what does this actually mean to you?
What is legal aid?
Legal aid helps pay for the cost of legal advice for people who cannot afford it. It funds solicitors and agencies to advise people on their legal problems, such as eviction, debt and family breakdown and, if necessary, to represent them in court.
In respect of family law cases, legal aid was previously available for divorce, financial matters, child protection, domestic violence, contact, residence and other children disputes. This has now changed.
What are the changes to legal aid?
From 1st April 2013, the Legal Services Commission (the governing body of legal aid) became known as the Legal Aid Agency.
The Government has made major changes regarding when legal aid will be available. Legal Aid funding is now only available for cases that involve domestic violence or child protection issues. Anyone applying for legal aid funding is required to provide specific evidence of domestic violence or child abuse to be able to make an application for funding. This evidence must be obtained in every case or legal aid will not be granted.
The evidence can include, but is not exhaustive of, the following;-
- Evidence of an injunction or criminal charge;
- A letter from a doctor or medical evidence;
- Evidence from a social worker of child protection concerns;
- Evidence of placement of a person in a refuge due to domestic violence.
There has also been changes to a person’s means benefit testing. Even if you were previously been entitled to legal aid, you may require reassessment of your means to see whether this is still the case.
Which cases can I get legal aid for?
These types of cases are still included in the legal aid scheme;-
- Family Law cases involving domestic violence, forced marriage or child abduction;
- Mental Health cases;
- All Asylum cases;
- Debt and housing matters where someone’s home is at immediate risk.
Which cases can’t I get legal aid for?
The Government has removed funding from entire areas of civil law, as follows;-
- Private family law, such as divorce and custody battles;
- Personal injury and some clinical negligence cases;
- Some employment and education law;
- Immigration where the person is not detained;
- Some debt, housing and benefit issues.