What evidence do I have to provide to get legal aid?

by Tom on April 25, 2013

What evidence do I have to provide to get legal aid?

On 1st April 2013 the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (‘LASPO’) came into force in England and Wales. LASPO makes it harder to get legal aid for family matters, because in order to get legal aid you may have to provide evidence of domestic violence or child protection issues. This article explains the evidence you have to provide to qualify for legal aid for divorce, financial and children matters on the basis that you have been, or are at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence.

It is important to understand that domestic violence includes more than just physical violence. The definition of domestic violence is ‘any incident, or pattern of incidents, of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (whether psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between individuals who are associated with each other’. This means that you can qualify for legal aid on the basis of domestic violence even if the perpetrator has not been physically violent towards you, so long as you have the evidence to back it up.

To get legal aid for a family matter on the grounds that you have been a victim of domestic violence, you have to provide one of the following bits of evidence:

  1. Proof that your partner or ex-partner (‘the other party’) has an unspent conviction for a domestic violence offence committed against you.

  2. Proof that the other party has been given a police caution for a domestic violence offence committed against you within the past 24 months.

  3. Proof of relevant on going criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence committed against you.

  4. Proof of a relevant protective injunction protecting you against the other party (e.g. a non-molestation order, occupation order or forced marriage protection order), which is still in force or was granted in the past 24 months.

  5. Proof of an undertaking given by the other party, in place of a protective injunction, given in the past 24 months. You must not have made a cross-undertaking.

  6. A letter from the chair of a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference confirming that the conference put in place a plan to protect you from the other party in the past 24 months.

  7. A copy of a finding of fact that there has been domestic violence by the other party which puts you at risk, which was made in the past 24 months.

  8. A letter from a health professional (e.g. a registered doctor, nurse or midwife) saying that you had injuries or a condition consistent with being a victim of domestic violence in the past 24 months.

  9. A letter from a social services department saying that you were assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence in the past 24 months.

  10. A letter from a domestic violence support agency in UK (e.g. Women’s Aid, Refuge, or Welsh Women’s Aid) saying that within the past 24 months you were admitted for a period of 24 hours or more to a refuge accommodating victims of, or those at risk of, domestic violence.

Many of pieces of evidence will only qualify you for legal aid if they relate to events that took place in the 24 months before your application for legal aid. To make sure you’re not caught out by the time limit, submit your application for legal aid as soon as you can.

www.justice.gov.uk/legal-aid-for-private-family-matters has advice about how to get the evidence you need to qualify for legal aid on the basis of domestic violence and child protection issues. You can also find links to template letters requesting the evidence you need.

Guest post by Barnaby Walker

Bio: Barnaby is currently writing a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Warwick. He has recently completed work experience in the family law department at DBS Law in Birmingham.

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