Legal aid for divorce cases – How you can apply
Please note: As of 1st April 2013, legal aid for divorce cases in England and Wales has been withdrawn by the government and you will no longer be able to obtain legal aid funding for your divorce or family law case unless you are a victim of domestic violence. If you are in Scotland there are different rules.
Divorce-Online can help you get divorced from just £59 without legal aid
You may not be able to get your divorce paid for by the state anymore, but we can still offer you a very low fixed fee to complete your divorce paperwork and guide you through the process of filing your divorce at court.
This service has been created so people on low incomes and benefits who are looking for a professional, quick and easy way to get divorced can do. For just £59.00 we will create, check and complete all required divorce forms, which you can sign and file with the court immediately.
We will also be able to tell you if you need to pay court fees, as there is a scheme known as fee exemption. That means, people on benefits and low income do not need to pay all or part of their court fees. If you would like more information on how we can help you, telephone 01793 211 211 for free impartial advice.
We offer two types of divorce service, a DIY divorce package and a more comprehensive managed divorce services. We can also deal with your finances and children, as long as you have reached agreement with your spouse.
Types of legal aid still available
Full Legal Aid – legal representation at court
If you need to make an application to the Court you will need to apply for certificated legal aid for which the income and capital limits are greater than for “legal help”.
Is Everyone entitled to legal aid?
If you are a victim of domestic abuse you will need to find a suitably authorised legal aid solicitor.
You also have to show that you cannot pay for your case, (i.e. that you are financially eligible) and that you have a good case which you are likely to win, (i.e. that your case has a good prospect of success and that the likely compensation or other benefits you will receive by being involved in a court case will exceed the likely costs.)
Even if you are working, own your home and have savings, you may still qualify. However, you may have to pay a contribution towards the cost of taking your case to Court.
Even if you are financially eligible and can show your case has good prospects of success the Legal Services Commission can still refuse to grant you legal aid if:
•There are alternative forms of funding available to you such as insurance. However in most family cases insurance is not available.
How do I apply for legal aid?
You will need to find a Solicitor who is able to undertake legal aid cases and you can find them here on the Legal Aid website.
You will have to complete a Matrimonial funding Application form, a Means Enquiry Form and a Wages Form which your employer completes. If you are in a new relationship and living with your partner they will have to be assessed too.
In some areas you will have to be referred to mediation to see if it would be suitable. This is known as Section 29 mediation and is compulsory. It means that you will have to attend an information meeting with a local mediation service to see whether it is suitable. If your ex does not agree, then they will sign a s.29 form which you give to your solicitor, who will then be able to apply for funding.
If you are in receipt of Income Support/JSA you will get Legal funding without a contribution.
Only Certificated funding attracts a contribution if you earn less than the prescribed limits as set out below.
The Certificate will have conditions attached to it such as costs limits and type of proceedings allowed.
Domestic violence and legal aid
In order to qualify for legal aid for private family law legal aid, you have to prove you have been a victim of domestic violence. It is not good enough to say you have been a victim, you now have to produce written proof. You will need to show that your spouse has received a formal caution from the police or produce medical evidence from your GP that you have sustained injuries that would normally be associated with violent behaviour. If you have a restraining order, you will need to produce a copy of the court order.
Mediation for private family law cases
Legal aid is available for couples to attend mediation. Rather than asking the court to determine any dispute, the Government want to encourage couples to attempt mediation, so that they can reach an agreed settlement without having to go through a formal court process. If mediation is successful, couples can file consent orders without having to go through a protracted court process.
Statutory Charge – repaying your legal costs
Legal aid funding is not free. If you recover or preserve property within the proceedings you may have to pay all or some of your costs back to the Legal Aid Agency.
This occurs in most matrimonial cases involving property or money, as most cases settle without costs being awarded against the other side.
You can keep the first £2,500 of any money or value of property before you pay anything back.
Your solicitor has to tell you about this before they apply on your behalf. Solicitors will give you a leaflet explaining it in detail.