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Can I get Legal Aid for family matters?

View profile for Claire Morgan
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Many people think that Legal Aid is no longer available for family matters, however, whilst there are many restrictions on who can receive legal aid, it is still available for some people. 

Legal aid is always available to a parent who is involved in care proceedings in relation to their child regardless of their financial means or merits of their case. It is also available to parents who are involved in the pre proceedings process with Social Services (PLO process).  You should always seek urgent legal advice if you are provided with a pre proceedings letter or notification of issue of care proceedings.

In relation to matters concerning Divorce or children, legal aid can be available in certain circumstances.  Apart from certain financial requirements which must also be met, there are also evidential requirements prescribed by the Legal Aid Agency which you must prove in order to obtain legal aid.

The evidence must show, unless otherwise stated, that you were or are at risk of being a victim of domestic violence from the other party in the case arising from a family relationship between you and the other party. The paragraphs below provide more information on the types of documents that will be accepted as evidence.

  • An unspent conviction for a domestic violence offence where you are the victim and the person convicted is the opponent in the case.

  • A police caution for a domestic violence offence, where you are the victim and the person cautioned is the opponent in the case.The caution must have been given within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid.

  • Evidence of ongoing criminal proceedings in relation to a domestic violence offence. The evidence should name the person charged with the offence (who must be the opponent in the case) and must show that the perpetrator has been charged with a domestic violence offence against you, although the proceedings may not have been concluded yet.

  • A relevant protective injunction which is in force or which was granted within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid. The evidence must name you as the protected party and the person whom the injunction was made against (who must be the opponent in the case).

  • An Undertaking given under the Family Law Act 1996 by a person with whom you were in a family relationship with, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid.

  • Evidence that the opponent is on relevant Police Bail for a domestic violence offence against you.

  • A relevant spent conviction for a domestic violence offence within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid. The evidence should name the person charged with the offence (who must be the opponent in the case).

  • A letter from any person who is a member of a MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference) confirming that you were referred to the conference as a victim of domestic violence; and the conference has, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid, put in place a plan to protect you from  a risk of harm by the opponent in the case.

  • A copy of a Finding of fact made in proceedings in the UK within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid, that there has been domestic violence by the opponent giving rise to a risk of harm to you.

  • A Letter or report from a Health Professional who has access to your medical records confirming that they have examined you in person within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid; and were satisfied following that examination that you had injuries or a condition consistent with those of a victim of domestic violence.

  • A Social Services Letter confirming that, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application, you were assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by the opponent in the case (or a copy of that assessment).

  • A letter or report from a domestic violence support organisation confirming that within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal that you had been accommodated in a refuge and that you were admitted to the refuge because of allegations by you of domestic violence against the opponent in the case.

  • A letter or report from a domestic violence support organisation in the UK confirming that you were, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid, refused entry to a refuge, on account of there being insufficient accommodation available in the refuge.

  • A letter or report from a Health professional who has access to your medical records confirming that a referral to a domestic violence support service was made, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid.

  • A relevant Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) or relevant Domestic Violence Protection (DVPO) order granted against the opponent (where you are the protected party) within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid.

  • Evidence of a relevant court order binding over the opponent in connection with a domestic violence offence, which is in force or which was granted within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of application for legal aid.

  • Evidence of Financial Abuse demonstrating that you have been, or are at risk of, being the victim of domestic violence in the form of abuse which relates to financial matters. The evidence provided should reflect that the behaviour referred to was with the intention to gain power and control over the victim. A single piece of evidence on its own may, or may not be sufficient, however, different pieces of evidence taken together could be. In some cases of financial abuse, a victim may not have access to any corroborating forms of documentary evidence and in such cases a narrative statement setting out the details of the financial abuse, the impact on you and an explanation as to why no other documentary evidence is available would be required.

In relation to children issues relating to the protection of a child from abuse from another party the evidence must show, unless otherwise stated, that you are seeking to protect a child from risk of abuse from the other party to proceedings. The forms of evidence accepted are as set out below:-

  • An unspent conviction for a relevant child abuse offence.The offence does not need to be in respect of the child for whom protection is sought: it can be in respect of any child.

  • A spent conviction for a relevant child abuse offence where the opponent was convicted of that offence within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of application for legal aid. The offence does not need to be in respect of the child for whom protection is sought: it can be in respect of any child.

  • A relevant police caution for a child abuse offence given within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid.

  • Evidence of ongoing relevant criminal proceedings for a child abuse offence which has not concluded. The offence does not need to be in respect of the child for whom protection is sought: it can be in respect of any child. The evidence must show the perpetrator has been charged with a child abuse offence, although the proceedings may not have been listed.

  • A relevant Protective Injunction which is in force or which was granted within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid. The protective injunction must be to protect the child who is the subject of the case from the opponent.

  • A copy of a finding of fact made in proceedings in the UK within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid, of abuse of a child by the opponent.

  • Evidence that the opponent is on police bail for a child abuse offence.

  • A letter from Social Services confirming that, within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application, the child was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of child abuse by the opponent (or a copy of that assessment).

  • A letter from Social Services confirming that, within the 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application, a child protection plan was put in place to protect the child from abuse or a risk of abuse by opponent (or a copy of that plan).

  • Copies of an application for a protective injunction and an application for a prohibited steps order against the opponent which has not, at the date of the application for legal aid, been decided by the court. Both applications must be made and must be seeking to protect the child from the opponent.

If you think you might be able to satisfy any of the above requirements, or if you are unsure and you would like some advice in relation to this, contact one of our Family Specialists, who will be able to advise you further. We can also advise you on the financial means requirements which also apply to Divorce and children matters (except care proceedings and the PLO process).

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