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 recent changes to the law that stipulate separating couples must now attend a MIAMS before applying to the courts for a Child Arrangements Order or Financial Remedy order.
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 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
FLG mediation can provide an initial assessment on whether a client is eligible for Legal Aid either over the phone or at a MIAMS meeting. When the client meets with a mediator, these are the documents that they should bring with them.
- The estimated value of your assets, such as your home and the balance on the outstanding mortgage
- Bank statement (for all accounts in the client’s name) covering the 1 month 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
- Proof of housing costs i.e. mortgage/rent
- Proof of childcare fees (if applicable)
If you would like more information on Legal Aid, please contact Sarah Lockson or Robyn Longdon on 0115 945 4555.