You’ve probably heard lots in the press recently about changes in Legal Aid, particularly when it comes to Family Law (divorce etc). But did you know that there are a number of examples where Legal Aid is actually still available?
Matters involving Social Services
Legal Aid is still available for legal advice and assistance where Social Services are involved with your children (or if you are a family member with a justifiable reason to obtain separate legal advice). This includes representation at Court, should the Local Authority make an application to the Court about your child. As a parent, or a person with parental responsibility for a child, Legal Aid for representation at Court, or in a meeting set up by Social Services to discuss Court proceedings is available whatever your means.
Making an Application to the Court to protect a child
If an application to Court is needed for an Order to protect a child from harm/abuse, Legal Aid may be available subject to financial eligibility. You may for example, be a parent, or a grandparent seeking an Order for a child to live with you to protect them from harm from another parent or an Order preventing that person from having contact with them. You must be able to provide evidence that you are seeking to protect the child from the risk of abuse from the other party to the proceedings. The evidence that you would need to provide in order to qualify would be one of the following: –
i) Evidence of a relevant unspent conviction (in respect of the other party/opponent) for a child abuse offence, or ongoing criminal proceedings for such an offence. It does not necessarily need to be in respect of the child that you are seeking to protect.
ii) Evidence from the Police of a relevant Police caution for a child abuse offence given within the last two years (again it need not be in respect of the child you are seeking to protect).
iii) A Court Order against the other party for a protective injunction made in the last two years in respect of the child you are seeking to protect, or a pending application for a Prohibited Steps Order which has not yet been decided by the Court.
iv) A finding made in a Civil Court, that the opponent has abused a child (any child) within the last two years.
v) A letter/document from Social Services confirming that the child has been assessed as being at risk of child abuse from the opponent within the last two years, or the child has been subject to a Child Protection Plan within that period (as a result of concerns about the opponent).
Divorce Proceedings or Disputes involving children where there has been domestic violence
If you have been subject to domestic violence by the opponent in your case, it is recognised that it would be extremely intimidating to be faced with representing yourself against them and therefore Legal Aid may be available if you can provide one of the following forms of evidence: –
i) An unspent conviction for a domestic violence offence against you.
ii) A relevant Police caution for a domestic violence offence against you within the last two years.
iii) Ongoing criminal proceedings where the opponent has been charged with a domestic violence offence against you, or where the opponent is on Police bail for such an offence.
iv) A relevant protective injunction which is in force, or which was made within the last two years (to protect you from the opponent) or an Undertaking given in place of such an injunction (you must not have given a cross Undertaking).
v) A letter from MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference) confirming that you are or have been at high risk of domestic violence from the opponent within the last two years.
vi) A finding of fact made in the Civil Courts within the last two years that you have been subject to domestic violence by the opponent.
vii) A letter from a health care professional i.e. GP confirming that within the last two years they have examined you and were satisfied that you had injuries or a condition associated with those of a victim of domestic violence and had no reason to believe that your injuries or condition were not caused by domestic violence.
viii) Evidence of a referral from a health professional to a domestic support service.
ix) Letter from Social Services confirming that within the last two years you have been assessed as being, or at risk of being a victim of domestic violence from the opponent.
x) A letter from a domestic violence support organisation in the UK confirming that you were admitted to a Refuge for at least twenty four hours due to allegations by the opponent of domestic violence (or were not admitted simply due to capacity).
Legal Aid is available should you need to apply for an Order to prevent a forced marriage. It may also be available in certain circumstances if such an application has been made against you.
Legal Aid is also available in issues involving child abduction, i.e. where your child has been or is to be taken out of the United Kingdom without your consent.
Legal Aid may be available in other rare cases in respect of any family dispute if the circumstances can be shown to be exceptional.