Family Legal Aid – Welcome Change to Domestic Violence Rules
In February 2017 it was announced that the Ministry of Justice will be scrapping time limits which prevent vulnerable victims of domestic violence from being able to secure Legal Aid in Family Court Hearings.
Under the current rules, victims must show that they have been subjected to abuse by the perpetrator within the last five years by supplying one of the approved forms of evidence of domestic violence. The range of documents victims must provide to secure Legal Aid is extremely narrow and can cause difficulties for many who require representation in the Family Courts. This can result in victims having to represent themselves, which can mean they are questioned in Court by their abusers.
The current restrictive rules result in a large number of victims, most of whom are women, not being able to access Legal Aid to secure representation. Evidence obtained by the Rights of Women organisation showed that up to 40% of woman could not meet the requirements to obtain Legal Aid.
As well as time limits being scrapped, the Legal Aid Agency will also widen the range of evidence that can be provided as proof of abuse. This will include statements from organisations working with domestic abuse victims, letters from solicitors and information from housing officers.
Removing the five-year time limit and widening the categories of acceptable evidence should result in far more vulnerable people being able to access Legal Aid in Family Court Proceedings. Of course, all applicants for Family Legal Aid in, say, proceedings concerning Child Arrangements, Prohibited Steps and Specific Issue Orders, etc., will still be subject to the financial test.
If you are experiencing difficulties with regard to domestic violence, arrangements regarding your children, or other Family Court matters, please do not hesitate to contact the Domestic Violence and Abuse Department (DVAD) at Emery Johnson Astills by telephone on 0116 255 4855. A member of the DVAD will be happy to speak with you and undertake an assessment as to whether you will qualify for Legal Aid.