Legal Aid criteria broadening for parents seeking legal advice

Lucy Whittaker
Lucy Whittaker

Published: March 28th, 2023

7 min read

There has been various changes recently in relation to the Legal Aid Agency's criteria for parents to obtain funding for a family dispute.

The Legal Aid Agency have confirmed that the ability for parents to access means-free legal aid has been amended to include parents with Parental Responsibility along with those who have suffered domestic abuse perpetrated by the other parent. This took effect on 01 March 2023.

Additionally, the Legal Aid Agency has amended the criteria in relation to providing evidence of domestic abuse. Those seeking Legal Aid will no longer be required to attend a relevant health professional to have an in-person assessment. Instead, the person applying, has the option of having a telephone or video assessment in order to obtain a supporting letter. This will ultimately, assist applicant's and allow for a easier, faster way to obtain the supporting evidence for Legal Aid purposes. The change will hopefully, relieve the added pressure put onto applicants also.

Shared care Legal Aid limitations overturned

Recently, a decision made by the Legal Aid Agency to refuse a mother's application for funding, has been overturned by the High Court.

In this case, the parents had a shared-care arrangement for the child. However, the father breached the existing Child Arrangements Order. The mother sought to apply to the Court to enforce the existing Order however, she was refused Legal Aid by the Legal Aid Agency as they applied the guidance from the Ministry of Justice which states that a child could only be a member of one household. Therefore, the mother's son was not treated as being a part of her household and the mother's disposal income assessment did not permit the allowance for a dependent to be deducted.

The High Court ruled that the current means testing allowed for a dependent to be treated as part of more than one household and that the Ministry of Justice's guidance was wrong and unlawful in relation to this.

The Minister of Justice must now update its guidance to reflect the decision.

Parents who have a shared caring arrangement for their children are now more likely to qualify for Legal Aid in family dispute.

For more information on legal aid for family and divorce matters click here.

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