For those of you who are dealing with family break up, it could not come at a worse time – not only are you going through probably one the most difficult and challenging experiences in your lifetime but you are now faced with the real possibility that you will have to deal with this crisis without the benefit of legal help if you are unable to pay for the services of a family solicitor and if you do not qualify for legal aid within the new ‘exceptional circumstances’ criteria as set out in the LASPO Act (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012).
BBC News has set out useful information in an article on the legal aid changes, answering key questions that will concern most of you who need legal help now or in the near future with matters arising in relation to civil and/or family law issues.
Most people will no longer qualify for legal aid unless there are grave issues about child welfare and/or domestic violence/forced marriage and if the applicant for legal aid is within scope on the basis of the new financial test, covering both income and capital recourses.
If you do not qualify for legal aid and you cannot afford to pay for legal services, you may be able to get a ‘Legal Services Order’ from the Court. This new statutory provision provides for an Order or Orders requiring one party to the marriage to pay the other (‘the applicant’) an amount for the purpose of enabling the applicant to get legal services for the benefit of the proceedings. To obtain such an Order you must satisfy the Court that you cannot secure a loan to pay for the help of a Solicitor and your Solicitor will not agree to postpone payment for their services until the end of the case from settlement funds i.e. by way of a ‘legal charge’ over the settlement funds.
In light of the legal aid cuts and the possibility of having to represent yourself in proceedings about your relationship break up, whether it be in relation to children arrangements or financial matters, it is now even more important that you give serious consideration to resolving your disputes via dispute resolution services like Family Mediation.
If you are contemplating separation from your partner or you have already separated we recommend that you arrange an appointment with one our family law experts to obtain sound legal advice on your options. Please call 0116 2385680 for an initial free telephone consultation.