In 2013, whole areas of law were removed from general legal aid and the government have now published a review of the effects of those changes.
With regard to Family Law there are welcome indications about making legal aid easier to obtain in adoption cases and for family members wishing to care for children.
After many years with no change, there is also talk of making it easier to qualify financially. However, there appears to be no proposals to extend legal aid for parental disputes about children or property cases.
This means that many mothers and fathers will have to represent themselves if there is a children dispute. It also means that wives, husbands and former partners will have to represent themselves in cases involving houses, pensions, savings and maintenance.
Many believe there will be a generation of children who do not see their fathers or mothers and of spouses who do not receive a fair share of pensions and the family home. An opportunity to put this right has, in my view, been missed.
However, it is a mistake to think that legal aid has gone forever.
Judges, sadly, often tell of unrepresented people who do in fact qualify for legal aid.
Whether you qualify for legal aid will depend on:
- the type of case
- your financial circumstances
Legal aid is available in the following Family Law matters:
- Proceedings brought by local authorities (social services) for care or supervision orders relating to children
- Contact to a child in care
- Where social services are involved with your family
- Injunction orders - either non-molestation orders or occupation orders
- Forced marriage protection orders
- Child abduction or unlawful removal of a child from your care
- Family mediation and advice in support of mediation
- Some high court proceedings about the welfare of your child
- Representation of children who are party to private law proceedings
- Exceptional cases if the refusal of legal aid would infringe your rights under the European Convention of Human Rights
In other Family Law cases you may get legal aid if you can provide evidence that:
- you have been a victim of domestic abuse and are divorcing or separating and you need help with divorce, contact or how to share money or property
- a child is at risk of abuse and you need help with arrangements for that child
- you are involved in a court case about arrangements for a child and have been a victim of domestic violence or the child is at risk of abuse
As you might expect, the detailed rules are complicated. At Broudie Jackson Canter we have an experienced Family Law team who are ready to listen and support you through your case. Please contact us for advice by messaging us your enquiry or requesting a callback at your convenience.