Do I qualify for Legal Aid?
- AuthorJulie Foster
What is Legal Aid?
Legal Aid is a publicly funded scheme operated by the government to allow people on low incomes to access legal advice without the fees attached.
How Do I Know if I Will Qualify?
Whether you qualify for Legal Aid will firstly be determined by the type of legal case it is and also your financial circumstances.
The main consideration for Legal Aid is whether or not you can afford to pay your own legal fees. If the answer is no, and you have a low income, then you may be eligible.
Accessing what is classed as a low income is difficult and you will need to know what can and cannot be counted as income. As a general guide, the Legal Aid Agency set a general benchmark of whether you have a disposable income of less than £733 per month, but there are only certain deductions from income that are permitted when calculating eligibility.
If you think your monthly net income may be lower than £733 you should seek advice from a legal firm that offers Legal Aid and they will be able to clarify it for you either way.
When looking at eligibility in family law matters, the Legal Aid Agency will seek evidence from you in relation to whether you are or have been a victim of domestic abuse or for children matters where there is evidence of child abuse. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have suffered from physical abuse, as domestic abuse also covers emotional abuse such as controlling or belittling behaviour causing you to feel stressed, anxious or depressed.
A Legal Aid solicitor will provide you with guidance on this and ensure that you complete the correct forms to submit an application for Legal Aid.
It is important to note that not all areas of family law require the evidence described above. So it is best to speak to a solicitor to ascertain whether the advice you are seeking requires one of these forms of evidence.
Are Family Law Matters Covered by Legal Aid?
Family law matters such as divorce, separation financial matters, disputes in respect of children (including cases where social services are involved) and domestic violence are all covered by Legal Aid.
Will I Have Access to the Same Level of Solicitor if I Qualify?
You most certainly will as firms that offer legal advice to those qualifying for Legal Aid have qualified solicitors to advise on both Legal Aid and privately funded cases in the same way. The service offered is of the same standard as if you were to pay privately. The only difference at the outset being that the legal process may not be able to commence straight away if you are required to provide any evidence relating to domestic abuse and your income.
How do I Apply for Legal Aid?
The starting point is to find a local solicitor that has been awarded a Legal Aid contract, as they can assist you with eligibility and the evidence required. They will be able to assess your circumstances to see whether or not you will be eligible.
If you are unable to visit a local firm of solicitors, you can also contact the Civil Legal Advice team on 0345 345 4345 and ask to be put through to the Legal Aid experts at Family Law Group. This team will assess your financial circumstances, discuss the evidential requirements and the details of your particular case with you in further detail.
Will I Need Specific Documents as Evidence?
Your solicitor will discuss this with you in detail, but these are the basic requirements that the Legal Aid Agency will require.
- The appropriate gov.uk legal letter specific to your circumstances or confirming that you are a victim of domestic abuse
- Recent proof of entitlement to any benefits that you may receive
- Recent bank statements showing your any monthly income and outgoings
- If you are in any form of employment, your recent payslips
- Proof of any outgoings such as rent or mortgage payments
Do all Firms Offer Legal Aid?
Not all firms of solicitors are able to offer Legal Aid. To find out if your local firm offers Legal Aid you can access the gov.uk website and do a postcode search. This will show you the firms closest to you that do offer Legal Aid. Alternatively you can call the Civil Legal Advice team who will not only assess your financial eligibility but also provide you with firms that offer Legal Aid, both remotely and local to you.
If you have any questions regarding Legal Aid or want to know if you might qualify, please contact Ciara Heaney on 0115 945 4555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Civil Legal Advice team on 0345 345 4345.