Can I Get Legal Aid For A Child Arrangements Order Application?

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Child Drawing

Legal Aid can be available  to pay towards legal costs for advice and representation. There are strict criteria applied to the granting of legal aid There are three main considerations  when the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) assess a legal aid application:

  • Scope: the proceedings must be  within the scope of legal aid, as some legal matters are excluded
  • Means test: your income and available capital must be below a certain level
  • Merits test: whether your case has a reasonable chance of success, or there is some other good reason why legal aid should be granted.

What about family law and legal aid?

Before proceedings are issued legal aid is available for family mediation, subject to a means test. If mediation is not suitable or successful then there are three different case types to consider:

  • Public Law Proceedings.
  • Private Law Proceedings – Divorce, (and financial applications arising), Child Arrangement Orders (formerly residence and contact)/Prohibited Steps Orders/Specific Issue Order.
  • Domestic abuse cases – non molestation orders and occupation orders: legal aid is means and merits tested

Public Law Proceedings

In local authority applications for care or supervision orders Legal Aid is available for parents without any means or merits test. For those who are not parents, legal aid is means and merits tested.

For other sorts of public law family cases, e.g. applications for contact to a child in care or to discharge a care order, legal aid is available but is means and merits tested for all parties.

Private Law Proceedings 

E.g. applications for a child to live with or spend time with someone or for a prohibited steps or specific issue order,  legal aid is means and merits tested for all parties in all cases. However legal aid is only available in 3 circumstances, either:

a) The Applicant for legal aid must show they were a victim, or were at risk of being a victim, of domestic abuse or violence from the other party in the case, arising from a family relationship between the client and the other party. To show this documentary proof is required of one of the following (the other party must be the perpetrator):

an unspent conviction for domestic abuse or violence against the applicant, a police caution for the same, ongoing criminal proceedings for the same, a protective injunction has previously been made, the opponent gave an undertaking under the Family Law Act, the opponent is on Police bail for such an offence, there has been a MARAC, there is a a finding of fact of domestic abuse against the opponent , there is a letter from a health professional confirming injuries or a condition consistent with those of a victim of domestic abuse, or a letter from social services confirming the same, or a letter from a refuge confirming  admission to refuge or being refused admission due to lack of accommodation, there is a letter from a health professional confirming referral to domestic service for support or assistance for victims of domestic abuse, a Domestic Violence Protection Notice.

Or

b) The applicant for funding must show the proposed proceedings relate to protection of the child(ren).  Documentary proof is required of one of following: the other party has a relevant unspent conviction for a child abuse offence, this can be against any child, or a police caution for such offence, or there are ongoing criminal proceedings for such offence, or a there has been a protective injunction to protect the child or a finding of fact that a child was abused by the respondent or the opponent is on police bail for a child abuse offence, or there is a social services document confirming that the child was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of child abuse or there has been a social services Child Protection Plan re the child or there has been an application for a protective injunction with an application for a PSO in respect of the child.

Or

c) In any other case where there is no such proof an application can be made to the LAA for  Exceptional Case Funding. The basis of such application is that without legal aid the applicant’s human rights will be breached. Such applications for funding are means tested. It is very difficult to obtain legal aid on this basis.

If legal aid is obtained  this will cover the costs of all legal advice and  representation in court and the legal disbursements e.g. court fees and experts costs

How do I apply for legal aid?

Your solicitors can assess you eligibility for legal aid and then make such an application if they consider you are likely to obtain legal aid.

If a solicitor believes you qualify for legal aid you will need to  provide evidence of your income, any benefits received, and your savings and other property . How Ison Harrison can help you with family cases and legal aid

If you have a family dispute  we can assess your circumstances and whether you qualify for legal aid. We can also try and negotiate with the other party and if necessary arrange  family mediation with a view to settling the dispute without the need for court proceedings. This is always the preferred route if it is possible and we have specialist family law solicitors who can help settle family disputes amicably. If negotiation or mediation is not going to resolve you dispute we can advise and represent you in court proceedings.

Contact our family law department today – call 0113 284 5000, or alternatively email myself on nigel.bowman@isonharrison.co.uk

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