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Can I get Legal Aid?

September 24, 2021

At AFG LAW, we feel it is extremely important for individuals to have access to justice. If you meet the Legal Aid Agency’s criteria, we may be able to assist you under the Legal Aid scheme.  Legal Aid can help meet the costs of your legal advice, family mediation and representation in court – here is what you should know.

Family solicitors Sajeda Alli provides further information in this article.

Overview…

If Social Services are involved with your family (whether that be at the pre-proceedings stage or during Care Proceedings), you will automatically be eligible for Legal Aid regardless of your circumstances.

However, to access legal aid for most private law family disputes, you would firstly need to show that you are: –

  • a victim of domestic violence or abuse

or

  • you need to act in a way to protect a child.

If you can provide one piece of evidence from the lists below, you would then have to pass the financial and merits assessment.

Option 1. Domestic Violence or Abuse

If you want to access legal aid using this route, you must show that you have been, or are at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence from the person that about whom you want to get legal advice i.e. the other parent, the person you want to separate from etc. Sometimes the Legal Aid Agency will accept evidence which shows that the other person has been abusive to someone else with whom they were in a family relationship.

The Legal Aid Agency define domestic violence as “any incident, or pattern of incidents, of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (whether psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between individuals who are associated with each other.”

You will need to show one of the following:

1. The other person has been arrested for a domestic violence offence and the police are investigating or have charged

2. The other person has a police caution for a domestic violence offence

3. The other person is involved in criminal court proceedings which haven’t finished

4. The other person has a criminal conviction (or was bound over) from a court for a domestic violence offence

5. The other person has been given a Domestic Violence Protection Notice by the police 

6. A court granted a protective injunction to protect someone from the other person

7. The other person made a promise to a court not to hurt, harass or threaten someone

8. During family court proceedings a court has found that the other person has been abusive or hurt someone

9. A report prepared for use within court proceedings which says that the you are at risk of being or have been a victim of domestic violence from the other person

10. A letter from a health professional who has seen injuries or knows you have a condition caused by the other person subjecting you to domestic violence or confirmation they have referred you to a domestic violence support organisation

11. Evidence that a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference has taken place because of the risk to you from the other person

12. A letter from an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate or Independent Sexual Violence Advocate confirming they are providing support to you

13. A letter from your housing officer confirming you have been, or are at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence from the other person, why they think that and what support they are giving you.

14. A letter from your domestic violence worker confirming you have been, or are at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence from the other person, why they think that and what support they are giving you.

15. A letter from a refuge confirming that you couldn’t go to a refuge because of a lack of accommodation

16. A letter from a public authority (i.e. social services) saying that you have been assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence from the other person

17. A letter from the Home Office confirming that you have been given leave to remain in the UK as a victim of domestic violence

18. Evidence you have been a victim of financial abuse

The Legal Aid Agency have helpfully provided some sample letters to assist individuals in getting evidence of Domestic Violence or abuse – please visit the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sample-letters-to-get-evidence-of-domestic-violence#letters-to-send-to-medical,-social-and-support-services

Option 2. Protecting a child

If you want to access legal aid for children proceedings using this route, you must be able to show that there is a need to protect the child from the other person, usually the other parent.

The Legal Aid Agency define child abuse as “physical or mental abuse including sexual abuse and abuse in the form of violence, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation”

You will need to show one of the following:

1. The other person has been arrested for a child abuse offence and the police are investigating or have charged

2. The other person has received a police caution for a child abuse offence

3. The other person is involved in criminal court proceedings for a child abuse offence and the court proceedings haven’t finished

4. The other person has a criminal conviction from a court for a child abuse offence

5. A court has granted the children you want to protect an injunction to protect them from the other person

6. A judge has made a decision during court proceedings that the other person has abused a child.

7. Social services have assessed the children as being, or at risk of being, victims of abuse from the other person

8. A child protection plan being put in place to protect the children from the other person

9. An application for a domestic violence injunction and a prohibited steps order which are both trying to protect the child from the other person and a final decision hasn’t been made by the court.

The Legal Aid Agency have helpfully provided some sample letters to assist individuals in getting evidence of Child Abuse – please visit the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/sample-letters-to-get-evidence-of-child-abuse

What Next…

After you have obtained one form of evidence from our lists above, you are one step closer to accessing legal aid; you will then need to pass both the financial and merits tests.

Financial and Merits Test

Legal Aid is mostly available to individuals who are unable to afford their own legal costs. You can check whether you are financially eligible by using the Legal Aid Agency’s online calculator: http://civil-eligibility-calculator.justice.gov.uk/

To allow us to assess your eligibility, you will need to provide ALL documents which apply to you from the list below:

Income

Employed (P.A.Y.E.) Income:

  • Last three months of wage slips
  • Last three months of bank statements for every bank account (including Savings account and ISA’s)

Self Employed Income:

  • Last three months of bank statements for every bank account
  • Last two years of complete financial accounts
  • Self-Assessment Tax Return
  • Cash book

Benefits in Kind

  • P11D tax form (benefits in kind)

Other Income:

  • Private /Occupational Pension documents
  • Evidence of rental income (bank statement or tenancy agreement)
  • Trust income (bank statement or letter from trustees)
  • Letter from friend/family providing support
  • Student grant/loan letter
  • Other: (e.g. bank statements)

Note: For pensions and any other income that is subject to income tax, evidence must show the gross amount before tax is deducted.

State benefits (including passporting benefits):

  • Last three months of bank statements (where it shows payment of the state benefit)
  • Original notification letter (if recent)
  • Latest letter advising change in benefit amount
  • Letter from paying agency i.e. Department for Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus, Pension Service confirming receipt of the passporting benefit at the date of your application for legal aid.

Note: Letters must specify name and type of benefit and be no more than one month old.

NASS Support:

  • Letter from NASS or Local Authority that the individual is in receipt of support.

Tax Credits:

  • Tax Credit Award Notice (most recent) or other recent HMRC letter confirming amount received which must be less than 6 months old.

Expenditure

Income Tax and National Insurance:

  • Wage slips (employees P.A.Y.E.)
  • Tax calculation sheet form SA302 (self-employed)

Housing costs (where amount exceeds one-third of client’s gross income):

  • Rent book / tenancy agreement
  • Mortgage statement
  • Bank statement

Child Care costs in excess of £600 per month

  • Copy of agreement / contract
  • Bank statements

Maintenance

  • Receipts
  • Bank statements
  • Copy of Maintenance Order

Capital

  • Bank statements
  • Share certificate
  • National savings certificate/passbook
  • Premium Savings Bonds or Bond Record (summary)

Finally…

Once you have obtained ALL of the required information, an appointment would be arranged to progress your case.

Please note, if you are not able to access legal aid, AFG Law can still help you. We understand that dealing with family law issues can be distressing and difficult. We also understand that paying for legal advice can be an additional pressure; we therefore offer fixed fees or hourly rates and have a range of payment options.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 01204 377600 or email familydepartment@afglaw.co.uk