Family legal aid funding withdrawn from April 2013
Date: 13 March 2013
From 1st April 2013, the Government has withdrawn public funding for the majority of family law cases. Unless there is an element of domestic violence, for which evidence must be provided, then you are no longer entitled to legal aid to assist you in divorce and financial matters, as well as private children act proceedings. There is still legal aid for care proceedings and to obtain injunctions.
Before commencing proceedings, the courts expect the parties to have attempted mediation to see if an out-of-court settlement can be agreed. To achieve this, mediation or corroborative law can be used, which can save time and money compared to issuing proceedings in court. In mediation, a neutral mediator will facilitate the discussion between you and will not side with either of you nor will he/she provide legal advice. Any settlement agreed is only binding once both parties have received independent legal advice and a consent order is sealed by the court. The mediator cannot prepare the court documents nor finalise the procedure.
In collaborative law, each party has their own lawyer throughout the process to advise their own client. This can certainly help negotiations as the relevant legal tests can be discussed and particularly when there is a lot of acrimony between the parties, as is often the case with family matters. If agreement is reached during the collaborative process, the lawyers can prepare the consent order for it to be approved by the court, which will then be binding on the parties.
Some 250,000 cases of divorce and family breakdown receive legal aid a year, according to figures from Citizens Advice. The withdrawal of legal aid will result in an increase number of litigants in person. This is likely to slow the court process down with litigants going to court ill-prepared, putting forward their feelings rather than legal arguments with emotions running high. Bearing this in mind, we try to achieve affordable legal representation to our clients. Please contact our office and we will endeavour to see if we can assist on your matter further.