By Emma Cordock, Associate Solicitor, AFG LAW
On 1st April 2013 the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force. It used to be the case under the Access to Justice Act, which was in force prior to 1st April 2013, that generally people could apply for legal aid for representation in family matters, subject to a means and merits test, unless the Act specifically stated it was excluded.
Under LASPO it is the other way round. The presumption is that legal aid is not available for family matters unless the act specifically states it is covered.
Schedule 1 sets outs what is included (i.e. where legal aid is still available)
However, to get funding for points 5 of 6 there is a list of acceptable evidence to meet the criteria. The evidence that is required in order for an application for legal aid to be made in these matters is prescribed in the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 (“the Procedure Regulations”).
Regulation 33 deals with evidence relating to domestic violence and Regulation 34 deals with evidence relating to child protection
It is therefore no longer straightforward to get legal aid for disputes between parents in respect of a child, finances or breakdown of a relationship (i.e. divorce) unless there is evidence of domestic violence or child protection issues, and the sufficient evidence can be provided.
In any event, the client still has to be financially eligible and have sufficient merits in the case to be successful for an application for public funding. Clients can assess their eligibility at the http://legalaidcalculator.justice.gov.uk
If funding was granted to a client before 1st April 2013, then that funding will continue
The Legal Services Commission is now known as the Legal Aid Agency.
The changes are expected to have a major effect on clients with family disputes who are unable to pay for a solicitor’s service privately. To find out whether you are entitled/eligible for public funding please contact one of our family team at our Bolton or Bury office on 0845 074 3491
By Emma Cordock, Associate Solicitor, AFG LAW. You can find her on twitter @emmacordock