First Anniversary of Legal Aid cuts

As many of you will recall on the 1st April 2013 the Legal Aid Agency drastically cut funding in the family law.  This resulted in many people, who were previously eligible for advice and legal representation, being faced with difficult choices.

A year on from those cuts being made and the result, as Lord Neuberger predicted, is that people feel they no longer have access to justice and many have now taken the law into their own hands.

The cuts to funding left people to either pay privately, which has resulted in some using either capital that they already had, borrowing from family or friends or alternatively getting loans through financial institutions.  If these options were not available people have taken the decision to represent themselves in attempting to resolve their disputes.

The attempts to resolve disputes without legal training or legal representation have led to longer court hearings which in turn has had an impact on the amount of hearings which are considered by the courts.

Legal Aid is still available for divorce, financial remedy and proceedings relating to children where there is an element of domestic abuse or involvement of children’s services.

The Legal Aid Agency is to make further amendments to the criteria of eligibility for Legal Aid on the 22nd April 2014.  Unfortunately those amendments will not assist the majority of people who have unresolved issues regarding residence and contact arrangements.

A prime example of the lack of justice is where a parent does not return a child following a contact visit to the parent with care.  Unless the parent with care has a residence order the only recourse for the return of the child is to make an application to the court.  Parents often turn to other resources, for example the police or children’s services, and those resources are already overstretched and as such are unable to assist.

If there has been domestic violence or children’s services involvement the parent with care can, subject to meeting that criteria and being eligible financially, make an application for legal aid.

If you’re unsure of whether you qualify for Legal Aid, our family law solicitors can help.

In the event that people are not eligible for legal aid, here at Forbes Solicitors, tailored services are available where clients are given an estimate and pay an hourly charging rate.  Alternatively there is our Fixed Fee Divorce service that allows clients to select as much or as little legal advice as they require to resolve their problem for a fixed price.

Gill Carr

About Gill Carr

Gill Carr is an Associate Solicitor within the Family department at Forbes Solicitors. Gill’s blogs cover his specialisms of child protection, acting for both parents and children together with family members. Gill also advises and comments upon forced marriage, divorce, separation, child arrangements and financial matters. Gill writes about current legislation and case law relating to family law.
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