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How will legal aid changes affect your family?
With effect from April 1st, the scope of services covered by legal aid was reduced significantly and legal aid funding has been withdrawn for the most frequently-seen family disputes.
However legal aid for mediation is still available and can be used to resolve a range of family problems, from issues relating to divorce and separation through to child contact disputes.
What family law services are available with legal aid?
If you applied before April 1st 2013 and were financially eligible, the Legal Services Commission will have provided legal aid assistance to cover all aspects of family law, including divorce, children (such as contact and residence disputes), financial matters, care proceedings and disputes between unmarried couples.
However since April 1st 2013, the LASPO Act limited the availability of funding to those cases involving issues of child protection or where you’re able to produce evidence of domestic abuse within the relationship.
As such, if you were eligible for public funded legal services, you will now only be able to receive legal aid for the following:
• Public family law regarding protection of children (care proceedings)
• Private family law with evidence of child abuse
• Child abduction
• Representation of children in private family cases
• Legal advice in support of mediation
• Domestic violence injunction cases
• Forced marriage protection orders
The only post-April alternative you have to resolve issues relating to divorce, separation, child contact and financial matters is family mediation – legal aid remains available in this area.
Are you entitled to legal aid?
If you secured public funding before April 1st 2013, you’re entitled to continue with your legal matter using legal aid.
If you now wish to be assessed for legal aid for family mediation, you’ll need to pass a means test. This considers your income and expenditure and establishes whether you are financially eligible for legal aid-funded services.
For guidance on how to claim, visit the Legal Services Commission website. Their legal aid calculator will help you assess whether or not you’re eligible for public funding and will also provide the forms you need to progress your application. We can also help you assess your eligibility for family mediation.