Legal Aid


The Government has decided that as of 1st April 2013 there will be no public money to pay for lawyers to represent most people in hearings involving disputes between parents and other individuals about children (Private Law cases). In essence legal aid is no longer available to pay for lawyers in cases where you are asking for (or opposing) contact between a child and a parent or when people are arguing about with which parent a child should live. A rundown of the changes are set out below.

There are some exceptions. Where a child has been subject to some form of abuse, legal aid may be available for the person in whose care the child lives and is considered to be a ‘protective’ person. However, it is unlikely to be available for the person accused of that abuse or ill-treatment of the child. It may also be available for parents who have been the victims of domestic abuse, be that physical or psychological. Again it is unlikely to be available for the person accused of that abuse.

Legal Aid is available for mediation. You will only qualify for Legal Aid for mediation if your income is below a certain level, as set out on the mediation page.

It is not all bad however, in the sense that for years a person who failed to qualify for Legal Aid (which amounted to almost everyone who worked full time or had any assets) would often be up against someone who had Legal Aid. This meant that whilst the Legally Aided person did not need to worry about the expense of the Court case, the person without legal aid could be spending money hand-over-fist on the case. Now, almost everyone has to worry about how much the proceedings are costing.

Legal aid for children and finance disputes

Disputes relating to children and finance will not be within the scope of legal aid unless the client has been a victim of, or there is a risk of, domestic violence or in children cases, if a child, who would be the subject of the order, has been, or is at risk of abuse from an individual who would be a party to the proceedings.

In order to provide legal advice and representation to a client in children or finance cases where there have been, or there is a risk of, domestic violence then the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations require that a client MUST obtain one of the following pieces of evidence before they are eligible for civil legal services (set out in Regulation 33):

1. Relevant unspent conviction for a Domestic Violence offence.

2. Relevant police caution for a Domestic Violence offence given within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application.

3. Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a Domestic Violence offence which have not concluded.

4. Relevant protective injunction which is in force or which was granted within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application.

5. Undertaking given in England and Wales provided that there is not a cross-undertaking.

6. Letter from chair of a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) that they were referred as a high risk victim of dv and that the conference took place within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application.

7. Copy of a finding of fact, made in proceedings in the United Kingdom within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application.

8. Letter or report from a health professional they have examined the client within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application and they had injuries or a condition consistent with those of a victim of domestic violence.

9. Letter a social services department confirming that, within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application, ‘A’ was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by ‘B’.

10. Admission to a domestic violence support organisation for a period of at least 24 hours within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application.

The client would still be required to meet the usual means and merits criteria.

In order to provide legal advice and representation in children disputes where a child, who would be the subject of the order has been, or is at risk of child abuse from an individual who would be a party to the proceedings then the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations require that a client MUST obtain one of the following pieces of evidence before they are eligible for civil legal services (set out in Regulation 34):

1. A relevant unspent conviction for a child abuse offence.

2. A relevant police caution for a child abuse offence within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application.

3. Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a child abuse offence which have not concluded.

4. A relevant protective injunction which is in force or which was granted within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application.

5. A copy of a finding of fact, made in proceedings in the United Kingdom within the twenty four month period immediately preceding the date of the application, of abuse of a child by an individual other than the applicant for civil legal services.

6. A letter from a social services department confirming that, within the twenty four 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 an individual other than the applicant for civil legal services.

7. A letter from a social services department confirming that, within the twenty four 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 an individual other than the applicant for civil legal services.

8. An application for an order for a protective injunction made with an application for a prohibited steps order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989(a) which has not, at the date of the application for civil legal services, been decided by the court.

Legal Aid for family mediation

Legal aid for family mediation will continue to be available to assist clients to resolve their family dispute. Legal aid will continue to cover the costs of Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) where at least one party is eligible and will cover the costs of mediation for any eligible client.

Other Areas of family that remain in scope

Other areas that remain in scope for family legal aid are:

  • Public law (Care) proceedings.

  • Protective Injunctions e.g. non-molestation orders, occupation orders, forced marriage protection orders and injunctions.

  • Children under 18 whether an applicant, respondent, or joined as a party to the proceedings.

  • International child abduction.

  • Legal aid is available for securing an order to prevent the unlawful removal of a child from the UK or to secure the return of a child unlawfully removed from or within the UK. Subsequent issues that may arise will not be in scope.


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