In recent years the government has placed significant restrictions on the availability of legal aid in family law cases, including divorce. Although there is limited financial assistance available for couples embarking on mediation this is subject to a means test. You can check whether you qualify for legal aid on the government’s website.
What Family Law Cases Is Legal Aid Available For?
Legal aid is still available in family cases where there is a risk of domestic abuse. You may still have to prove you are financially eligible. This means you may apply for legal aid if you are applying for:
- a non-molestation order or occupation order
- a restraining order
- a child arrangements order, prohibited steps order or specific issue order, if you or any children have experienced domestic abuse
- a forced marriage protection order
Legal aid is also available when a local authority has brought care proceedings and in cases where a child is about to be removed from the UK. It is also possible in limited circumstances to argue entitlement to legal aid under the European Court of Human Rights
Alternatives To Legal Aid
With the removal of legal aid from the majority of divorce cases many divorcing couples going through separation and divorce now have no option but to represent themselves. There is evidence that this has put family courts under pressure and has led to backlogs and delays. It is also the case that final outcomes in relation to finance and children arrangements are unsatisfactory because of the lack of formal legal advice.
Divorce is a time of financial hardship for many, as a single household effectively splits into two. Sourcing funds to pay for legal fees can prove extremely difficult. But if at all possible it is worth investigating alternative funding options to get specialist advice that ensures you protect your family’s future position. Many law firms now offer their services on an ad hoc basis at key points in the divorce process. There may also be the possibility of funding legal advice through a specific type of loan.