How to claim legal aid for domestic abuse
If you’re trying to leave an abusive relationship, the last thing you want to worry about is how you’re going to pay for legal protection from domestic abuse.
Legal aid has been cut for most family law cases, such as divorce and child arrangements, with funding offered for family mediation instead. However family mediation isn’t appropriate for break-ups resulting from domestic abuse – in these cases legal aid may still be available.
No more time limit
The good news is that the Court of Appeal has made it easier to claim legal aid for domestic abuse by reversing government rules on a ‘time limit’ for evidence of abuse. Before this decision, most forms of evidence couldn’t be used if the abuse happened over two years ago.
But how do you actually claim legal aid – and what evidence is needed? Below are various agencies which you can ask to confirm that you have been a victim of domestic abuse.
While this may seem daunting, if we act as your solicitors, we can help you through the process of applying for legal aid.
Gathering the evidence you need
The best way to request evidence of domestic abuse from these agencies is to write to them. To help you with this, the Legal Aid Agency provide template letters to download and complete.
The police: The police can provide evidence of cautions and domestic violence protection orders against your partner, or proof that your partner is currently on bail for an offence against you.
Your GP or another healthcare professional: If you’ve been to see your GP with a health problem related to domestic abuse, they can produce the proof you need for legal aid.
Other healthcare workers, such as nurses, midwives and A+E staff can also help you with evidence for your legal aid claim if they have treated you for an illness or injury caused by domestic abuse.
The courts: If your partner has been convicted of domestic violence against you, the courts will be able to give you a record of the conviction which qualifies you for legal aid.
Examples of possible convictions include aggravated assault, sexual harassment or assault, coercive and controlling behaviour, and stalking.
Courts can also provide evidence of a restraining order and other measures used to stop domestic violence.
A Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC): This is a meeting between local services whose goal is to keep you safe from abuse.
Anyone who attends these meetings can provide the evidence you need to secure legal aid, but the best place to start is probably the local police Public Protection Unit – their contact details should be available online.
Social services: Like healthcare professionals, social services can provide proof of domestic abuse. You may prefer to speak to your usual social worker, but it’s also a good idea to write formally to social services.
A local refuge manager: If you have visited a refuge to escape domestic violence in the past six months, the manager of that service can provide proof of eligibility for legal aid.
Our solicitors have experience in all aspects of the law relating to domestic abuse, including protection orders, divorce, housing issues, children and restraining orders.
We offer a free 30 minute meeting in which we can advise you how to get evidence for your legal aid claim. To speak to one of our team you can contact us by phone on 0117 325 2929 or by filling out our online enquiry form.
You may also wish to contact a local independent domestic violence advisor (IDVA) service for extra support – but if you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.