LEGAL AID FUNDING FOR FAMILY MATTER DISPUTES ENDS ON APRIL 1ST 2013.
The clock is now ticking for people to obtain public funding in relation to most family matters.
Under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act, 2012, from April of this year, public funding will no longer be available for most divorce, financial and private law children cases, such as disputes between parents over residence and contact arrangements for their children.
The government has introduced the changes with a view to cutting the legal aid bill by £350 million per year. The consequence of the changes will result in the vast majority of people who are currently able to obtain and access legal advice and representation, no longer being able to do so.
Public funding will still be available for many people involved in public law children cases, for example proceedings where Social Services are involved with children. For those who financially qualify, there will also be funding for cases of domestic violence. In very specific circumstances, funding will still be available for divorce, financial and private law children cases, but it is anticipated that the majority of those who are currently eligible for funding, will no longer be eligible from April. Currently it is estimated that 250,000 people per year receive family advice, assistance and representation under legal aid. It is anticipated that after the changes come in, this number will decrease to as few as 40,000 people.
The government hopes that the changes will not only cut the current £2.2 billion legal aid bill, but also encourage parties to resolve matters more amicably through services such as mediation. There is concern that the cuts will limit access to justice for a large number of people and cause the Courts to be full of people representing themselves as a result of not being able to afford legal representation.
There has been a growth of divorce websites and concern has been expressed by the legal Ombudsman, that the legal aid changes will see a rise in people opting for cheaper, poor quality service out of concern that other options are unaffordable.
If you’re suffering from domestic violence and need access to legal aid, you’ll need to produce evidence of abuse through one or more of the following:
• A ‘finding of fact’ by the court (within 24 months) that you’re a victim of domestic violence
• A conviction or caution against an individual for a domestic violence offence
• Criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence that haven’t concluded
• Protective injunctions in place, including non-molestation, occupation and restraining orders
• Medical evidence from a registered practitioner, including your GP
• Written confirmation from a domestic violence support organisation or social services
FOR FURTHER GUIDANCE, CONTACT THE ‘OFFICIAL’ FATHERS-4-JUSTICE WEBSITE HERE AND JOIN OUR FAMILY.