In a first of a series of blogs, Tim Weatherhogg from Dunn & Baker talks about Legal Aid.
You may still read in the newspapers, heard from friends or seen on social networking sites that legal aid has come to an end. Although there has been a lot of stories about Legal aid coming to an end – this is not strictly correct. Yes, legal aid has been more restricted over the last few years and sadly some work is no longer covered.
However legal aid is still available to you for many areas of family law. If you were eligible it would mean that legal aid would pay your solicitor’s costs, your barrister’s costs and other fees relating to your case.
Legal aid can still automatically be provided to you, subject to an assessment of means, for most types of family injunctions.
Legal aid can also be available, again often subject to an assessment of your means, for:
- matters where social services are involved with your family about your children
- child protection issues
- child abduction
In some other circumstances, legal aid might also be available to you as well upon successful application.
As well as assessing your means and ensuring that you have a suitable case, your solicitor has to also provide something independently to confirm whether you have been subject personally to domestic abuse or whether your child has suffered abuse.
The types of organisations who can provide this information depends on what evidence you can provide. They would include:
- the courts
- the police
- a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC)
- social services
- a health professional eg. a doctor, nurse, midwife, psychologist or health visitor
- a refuge manager
- a domestic violence support service
- your employer or education or training provider
- the provider of any benefits you have received
Either you or your solicitor can download and print a sample letter to send to the police, courts, medical professional and social services. These are available at https://www.gov.uk/legal-aid/domestic-abuse-or-violence
This outlines the proof you need, depending on whether you or your children have been victims. You will usually need to show that you or your children were at risk of harm from an ex-partner.
If you are in any doubt whether your case would be covered then please do not hesitate to telephone a firm of solicitors directly and ask to speak to one of their lawyers. It is likely that the initial enquiry about legal aid can be answered straight away over the telephone.
The solicitor would also need to establish whether you could be eligible because of your income. If you receive benefits then you are more than likely to be eligible and with other forms of income they would need to assess whether you would potentially qualify.
Please note that if your case involves any urgent issues relating to a domestic violence or child abuse situation you should contact your solicitor straight away so they can see if you need an immediate appointment.
Tim Weatherhogg, Dunn & Baker
- Exeter 01392 285 000
- Cullompton 01884 338 18
- Newton Abbot 01626 330 127