RIP Family Legal Aid – April 2013
In April 2013, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) comes into force.
One dramatic change that LASPO introduces is the end of legal aid for many areas of law which relate to social welfare, and in addition the complete exclusion of private family law matters unless very specific criteria are met. This means that from April, anyone who wants a residence order or contact order for their children or grandchildren, or a divorce or ancillary relief, will no longer be able to get legal aid to instruct a solicitor.
There is growing concern that this is going to lead to increasing delays within the family court system, as many people will have no choice but to represent themselves in court and negotiate their way around the family law system with little or no legal advice. There is also the worry that in cases where one party has the money to pay for a solicitor but the other party does not, justice will not be properly done.
Family lawyers work very hard to try and prevent cases from going to court by negotiating and trying to reach agreements between the parties, providing sensible and practical advice. This initial negotiation period may now be lost for many people.
The following areas will remain within the scope of legal aid, albeit with stringent tests in order to prove that a matter “fits” within the relevant criteria -
- Public family law regarding protection of children
- Private family where there is evidence of domestic violence
- Private law children cases where there is evidence of child abuse
- Child abduction matters
- Representation for child parties in private family cases
- Legal advice in support of mediation.
- Domestic violence injunction cases
- Forced marriage protection order cases.