What is Legal Aid?
How does it work regarding marriage breakdown?
Legal Aid offers help to those who cannot afford Solicitor’s fees. Depending on your circumstances the Government will provide money to pay for some or all of your case. If you receive any money or property from a legal settlement the fees must be repaid.
The Legal Services Commission directly funds legal services for eligible clients. In Family Law, only specialist firms are funded to do the work. We are one of them.
You may be entitled to legal funding just to speak to a Solicitor and to have a Solicitor write letters on your behalf. This is known as “Legal help”. You will need to be assessed for eligibility, although you automatically qualify if you have receipt of Income Support.
Full legal aid
If you need to make an application to the Court you will need to apply for Certificated Legal Aid. Even if you are working, own your home and have savings, you may qualify. However, you may have to pay a contribution towards the cost of taking your case to Court. You will be assessed for eligibility and there will also be an assessment on the merits of your case.
If you are in receipt of Income Support/JSA you will get Legal Funding without a contribution.
The Certificate will have conditions attached to it such as cost limits and the type of Court proceedings allowed.
How to apply
If you want to check whether you qualify for Legal Aid, you can use our Free Legal Aid Calculator. You will also need to complete a Matrimonial Funding Application form, a Means Enquiry form. There is also a Wages Form which will need to be completed by your employer. If you are in a new relationship and living with your partner, they will have to be assessed too.
Before you can apply for Legal Aid you will need to attend an information meeting with a local mediation service. This is known as Section 29 mediation and it is compulsory. If your ex does not agree, then the mediator will sign a form to give to your solicitor who will then be able to apply for funding.
Legal Funding is not free. If you recover or preserve money or property within the proceedings, you may have to pay all or some of your costs back to the Community Legal Service.
If you want more information on financial eligibility, visit the Legal Services Commission website.