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Legal aid cuts to hit families

TOUGH BREAK From April 1, couples in most cases will not be able to get legal aid if they take their divorce to court.

TOUGH BREAK From April 1, couples in most cases will not be able to get legal aid if they take their divorce to court.

Divorcing couples are unlikely to get financial help if they need to go to court under new rules which will come into force next week.

From April 1, families in most circumstances will not be able to get legal aid when they go to family court to settle a dispute.

The changes mean that more often than not, families will have to cover their own legals costs if they go to court.

The Family Law Bar Association has criticised the new rules, saying they will lead to more people representing themselves in court because they cannot afford lawyers.

The changes that apply to family cases are part of plans to cut £350m a year from the UK’s £2.2bn legal aid bill.

For family cases, there are exceptions where claimants will still be able to get legal aid: where there is clear evidence of domestic violence or child abuse, or where the case relates to child abduction or forced marriage.

And couples will still be able to get legal aid for mediation proceedings, which they must take part in to try and settle their disputes before they go to court.

Only people who do not have sufficient means to pay their own legals costs can qualify for legal aid.

For those who do not qualify for legal aid, mediation still costs only around 25 per cent of what the average case costs when it goes to court.

According to West Yorkshire Family Mediation Service, mediation also only takes around a quarter of the time of a full court battle.

 

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