New Regulations for Legal Aid criteria for Family Law announced
Following a successful High Court appeal by the charity group Rights of Women, the Legal Aid Agency have now relaxed the time limit set for the domestic violence evidence required in order to qualify for Legal Aid for family law matters (such as contact arrangements, divorce and residence applications).
The change to the guidance came as a result of the outcry of many victims needing Legal Aid but who had been refused funding due to the fact that their evidence of domestic violence fell outside of the strict time limit of 2 years. Research by the charity had found that 53% of those affected by domestic violence had chosen not to pursue cases in the family courts because they could not get legal aid. The court agreed that many victims were still struggling with the effects of domestic violence, which did not automatically stop after 2 years has passed, and that this time limit was leaving victims to face their abuser alone in the court arena as they could not afford legal representation. The result was the victim felt pressured into agreeing arrangements for their children which were not always in the children’s best interests.
The new guidance which has now come into force allows for evidence of domestic violence to be accepted from the past 5 years which has provided some victims with a much needed life line. The regulations setting out the requirements for ‘Domestic Violence’ remain the same, i.e. an unspent conviction or police charge, letter from a health professional or admittance to a refuge however the time frame has now been extended. The rules regarding financial eligibility for Legal Aid stay the same.
The full criteria can be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/516/regulation/2/made
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