It may come as a shock but, from 1 April 2013, Public Funding (also known as Legal Aid) will not be available to many previously eligible people in relation to family law matters, and they will be replaced by fixed fee legal services.
The current economic climate has meant that the Ministry of Justice is required to make substantial savings and the Public Funding system has been one of the main casualties. It will no longer be generally available from 1 April 2013 for divorce and financial matters or residence and contact disputes concerning children, unless there is a domestic violence element. Instead, it will only be available for the following:
- Child protection issues involving social services;
- Child abduction;
- Representation of children in Private Law Children matters;
- Private Law Children matters, where there is evidence of domestic violence;
- Private Law Children matters, where there is evidence of child abuse;
- Domestic violence injunctions;
- Forced Marriage Protection Orders; and
- Legal Advice in support of mediation.
The evidence required to show domestic violence or child abuse is strictly defined and in particular the abuse or violence must have occurred within the 24 months leading up to any application for funding.
Public funding vs fixed fee legal services
These are major changes to Public Funding and Lyons Davidson appreciate that specialist legal advice may seem unaffordable and, as such, unobtainable. On this basis, we are proud to be one of the first law practices in Bristol to offer clearly set out fixed fee legal services as an alternative to Public Funding. This enables individuals looking for specialist legal advice about their family issues to access the same advice with the comfort of knowing exactly how much their legal fees will be. The arrangements clearly set out the VAT and court fees payable, so there are no surprises.
We have a Family Law team who offer excellent advice and a high quality of service. It is our aim that the restrictions on Public Funding will not prevent those who would have previously been entitled to Public Funding from having access to much-needed legal advice.
Lyons Davidson offer fixed fee legal services for divorce and financial matters. We will also be offering fixed-fee arrangements in the near future for children matters where Public Funding is not available.
For more information on any of the issues raised in this article or on Family Law matters in general, please contact our Family Law team.