One of the most frequently asked questions of our mediation team is from clients enquiring whether they qualify for Legal Aid for their MIAMS or mediation meetings.
This article aims to clarify the situation in light of changes to the law that stipulate separating couples must now attend a mediation meeting before applying to the courts for a divorce. Whether a client qualifies for Legal Aid is subject to their financial circumstances.
Here are some guidelines to look for prior to contacting a solicitor or making a referral.
- If a client is in receipt of certain benefits - Income Support, Income-related JSA or Income-related ESA
- The client has a low disposable income – Where the client has a disposable income of less than £733 per month after deducting tax and certain living expenses
- Where the client has savings – If the client has capital or savings of less than £8,000 (excluding the value of property where this is to be discussed in mediation)
- The client is in receipt of contribution based benefits or are on a low income
In the situation where only one party is eligible for Legal Aid, the other party will benefit, as the MIAM and first mediation meeting will be free of charge for both parties. Further mediation meetings will be free of charge for the party eligible for Legal Aid, whilst the other party will pay the private fee after the first mediation meeting.
What proof from the client is required?
Family Law Group can provide an initial assessment on whether a client is eligible for Legal Aid either over the telephone or alternatively at a MIAMS meeting. Whether a client is eligible for Legal Aid is subject to providing evidence of their financial circumstances, as outlined below.
When the client meets with a mediator, the documents listed below should be brought with them.
- National Insurance number
- The estimated value of your assets, such as your home
- Bank statement covering the four week period prior to the meeting with the mediator
- If you are employed, proof of your income through payslips
- If you receive benefits or tax credits, a letter (within the last 6 months) confirming your entitlement
If you would like more information on Legal Aid, please contact Robyn Longdon in our mediation team on 0115 945 4555.