What does Legal Aid cover?
- Legal Help- a solicitor will advise you and negotiate with other party
- Legal Representation- a solicitor will prepare your case and represent you in court or arrange a barrister to represent you.
How do I know If I qualify?
With legal aid reform, it is important to check whether you qualify.
In order to qualify the Legal Aid Agency will look at the merits of your case and your financial circumstances (merits and means)
In order to find out whether you’re eligible and how to apply, seek free initial legal advice with us at Ison Harrison Solicitors. We can explain whether you qualify for legal aid, and if not what the cost implications will be.
Your financial situation isn’t taken into account for cases regarding:
- mental health tribunals
- if social services have issued an application for a care or supervision order in respect of your children
- child abduction
Does legal aid cover all costs?
Legal aid may not cover all the costs of your case, you may have to pay a contribution or pay back some of the cost if you win money or property from your case. If your problem is covered by legal aid and you qualify you could get:
- advice on your rights and options
- help with negotiations and paperwork
- help if you’re accused of a crime, e.g. advice at a police station
- a solicitor or barrister to get your case ready and speak on your behalf in court and some tribunals
Are there any alternatives to legal aid?
If you can’t obtain legal aid, you might be able to seek free support from:
- the Law Centres Network
- Citizens Advice
- A McKenzie friend
- The Personal Support Unit at court
They might be able to support you but they cannot represent you in court.
What you can get legal aid for?
You might be able to get legal aid for problems like:
- Social services being involved with your children
- homelessness or losing your home, or if it’s in serious disrepair
- protecting yourself or your child from abuse or harassment
- domestic violence
- forced marriage
- poor quality care you or a family member are getting due to age, disability or special educational needs
- needing advice on finances, children or divorce if you’ve been in an abusive relationship
- a child in your family being at risk of being taken into care
- family mediation; if you’re separating or getting a divorce
- challenging the way the government has made a decision about you
- seeking asylum
- victim of human trafficking
- being arrested, charged or questioned by the police
- representation at a mental health tribunal or inquest
- appealing a decision made by the social security tribunal about your benefits to the Upper Tribunal, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court
What is exceptional case funding?
You may be able to get legal aid in exceptional cases, if you can show that being refused legal aid would infringe:
- your rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
- your EU rights to legal representation
We will be able to advise you about this and you can apply directly to the Exceptional Case Funding team at the Legal Aid Agency.
Can I get legal aid abroad?
You can apply for legal aid in EU countries and Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and Azerbaijan. You can’t get legal aid in Croatia and Romania.
You can get help with your application from a publicly funded solicitor, as well as documentation translation. In order to do this, you must contact the embassy or consulate that country, or the Legal Aid Agency to find out how to apply.
What counts as evidence for domestic abuse for legal aid?
In family cases that do not involve social services you will usually need to show that you or your children were at risk of harm from another party in the case. You will need documentary evidence of this. You can ask for evidence from:
- the courts
- the police
- a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC)
- social services
- a health professional, e.g. a doctor, nurse, midwife, psychologist or health visitor
- a refuge manager
- a domestic violence support service
How do I get evidence for legal aid domestic abuse?
We may be able to assist you with this. You can also download and print a sample letter to send to the police, courts, or medical and social services. This helps you get the proof you need, depending on whether you’ve been a victim or your children have been victim. You then must give the letter to the person you’re asking to provide evidence.
What do I need to do before seeing a lawyer?
Firstly, work out what you want help with. Collect and bring all relevant paperwork, e.g. summons, court orders, letters from government agency. Arrange an interpreter if necessary.
When is Legal Aid available in a Family Law matter?
It depends on what your case relates to. In the following type of case, it is available:-
- Legal aid is available for Cases Involving Domestic Abuse: If you need to protect yourself or your children or sort out who is going to remain in the home and you are applying for a Non-Molestation Order (sometimes referred to as an injunction) and/or an Occupation Order then you can apply for Legal Aid. Cases with Social Services involvement: This covers instances in which the local authority is taking steps in relation to child protection and care proceedings. In these cases, Legal Aid is available;
- Forced Marriage Protection Orders: , Legal Aid is available to make an application for or defend such application;
- Cases involving Child Abduction: This covers cases where the child has been taken out of the UK or relocated inside the UK without the consent of someone with parental responsibility.
When is it generally not available in Family Law?
Usually, cases relating to Divorce and Finances, as well as Child Arrangements do not qualify for legal aid. If, however, you have evidence of domestic abuse, or child protection, it is still possible to get Legal Aid in these categories. The Legal Aid Agency specifies the types of evidence they will accept.
Difference between means and merits testing?
Where social services have issued an application for a care or supervision order in respect of your children legal aid is available without means or merits test.
All other Legal Aid applications are subject to a ‘means and merits’ test: The Means Test assesses a person’s financial situation. If you are in receipt of a ‘passporting’ benefit, you should pass the means test. ‘Passporting’ benefits include:
- Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance;
- Universal Credit;
- Income Support;
- Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance.
If this does not apply, a more detailed assessment of your finances must be carried out, taking into account the below:-
Your gross monthly income must be £2,657 or less and your disposable monthly income must be £733 or less. The limit of disposable capital you are permitted to have is set at £8,000. This is looked at even if you receive one of the ‘passporting’ benefits. The above limits are not applicable in cases involving domestic abuse and forced marriage. If you have a partner, their means will be taken into account.
In order to apply for legal aid you will need to provide evidence of your financial circumstances
- From your bank, at least 3 months statements for all bank accounts in your name
- From your employer, evidence of your last 3 months income
- Evidence of benefits from the provider of any benefits you’ve received
A Merits Test looks at the case itself- how well will the desired action will deal with the situation? Is it right to spend public funds on it? Cases relating to Forced Marriage, as well as Care proceedings automatically pass the merits test.