Legal aid for family law disappeared after the 1st April 2013 in the vast majority of cases.
It is now only available in very limited circumstances, in particular if you are a victim of domestic violence. For those who may be financially eligible, and have suffered from domestic violence within their marriage, they must produce evidence of this to the legal aid agency. By the very nature of such abuse it is not always easy to produce such evidence.
In the event that legal aid is available, there is a popular misconception that the legal aid advice given is free. This is not the case and legal aid should be treated more like a loan to paid back from any settlement received at the conclusion of a case.
In the absence of legal aid, the question of funding of the divorce is increasingly a concern at such an emotional and difficult time. So what are the options available? Here are some of the possible solutions for consideration although by no means all the options:-
- Pay from your own resources whether this be from income or capital. If however you are attempting to sell assets to meet your ongoing costs, you must consider this carefully as any such disposal might be viewed by the court as an attempt to put the assets beyond the reach of your spouse.
- Borrowing off family and friends. The benefit of such a loan is that they are usually interest free with no fixed date for repayment however it is important that any such loan is evidenced in writing so that it cannot be argued by your spouse as a “soft loan” that is not repayable.
- Credit card or overdraft. Many credit cards will offer nil or lower rates of interest on a short term basis, however this must be considered carefully as the interest rates can increase considerably after a limited time therefore this may be considered if short term borrowing can be cleared from a settlement.
- Insurance. It is worth checking your domestic household insurance policy to see if there is any assistance provided for legal advice.
- Payment from your spouse. This can be by way of voluntary agreement or following application to court for payment under a legal services order if no other source of funding is available to you.
- Arrangements with your solicitor. If there is capital which may not be accessible until the case is resolved, in some circumstances it may be agreed with your solicitor that costs can be paid at the end of your case from any settlement received. This may arise if, for example, it is agreed at an early stage that the former matrimonial home is to be sold.
Whichever way legal fees are funded, it is important to discuss costs estimate at the outset of your case and to obtain a written estimate of costs so that appropriate planning can be made.
If you wish to know whether you will eligible for Legal Aid or discuss any family law issues, please contact either Emma Hartley or Amanda Cuthbert of Newtons Solicitors. Both Emma and Amanda offer a first class approach to what can be a difficult and upsetting time. Newtons offer a free half an hour confidential appointment and can be flexible when needed. We have car parking and wheelchair access.