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Non - Means and Non - Merit tested meaning

Some sorts of legal aid are non-means tested. This means it doesn’t matter how much money you earn or have in the bank. In most cases though you can only get legal aid if you are on a low income. (Domestic abuse injunctions and forced marriage orders are an exception – The Legal Aid Agency waives all upper eligibility limits for people applying for these sorts of orders. However, a contribution may be required.

Most sorts of legal aid are only available if the case is strong enough to justify it. However in a few categories legal aid is available automatically.

If you are a parent who is involved in public law (care) proceedings (that is where social services make an application to court asking for orders about your children and sometimes asking for them to be removed from your care, you are automatically entitled to legal aid and you should go and find a family legal aid solicitor as soon as possible.  

If you have parental responsibility for a child that is not your own child (this would usually be where there is a child arrangements order saying a child lives with you) you are also entitled to legal aid in any care proceedings about that child.

Means - tested

Some sorts of legal aid are means-tested. This means they are only available if you are on a low income.

As this policy is constantly updated, we advise to visit the website for up to date information about the income and capital limits and to see if you qualify for legal aid based on your income or capital.

To start with the process on legal aid, consult with your solicitor and or see whether you are eligible on:

which gives you all the details for applying online and what to do if its urgent. The following also assumes that you may be financially eligible for legal aid.

Domestic abuse injunction

If you are applying for a domestic abuse injunction you may be entitled to legal aid to make that application. The technical name for a domestic abuse injunction is a non-molestation order. 

However, the site refers to these as (‘domestic violence injunctions’). Although you will need evidence to put be- fore the court to obtain an injunction (usually in the form of a witness statement from you) you do not need to satisfy the very strict evidence requirements set out below in order to get legal aid. If you obtain an injunction that will then be evidence you can use to satisfy the legal aid evidence requirements if you are involved in any future case about the children or divorce.

Cases about children or money

If you are involved in any other kind of family dispute (e.g. dispute about where a child should live or contact with the other parent, finncial proceedings after divorce) legal aid is not available, except in very llimited circumstanes as underlined above.

You have evidence that you are the victim of domestic abuse or are applying for an injunction to protect you or your child as a result of such domestic abuse, or

  • You have evidence that you are protecting child from child abuse from the other person, or

  • In cases of child abduction.

You will also have to satisfy a merits test, which means that the Legal Aid Agency will look at how strong your case is when making decision about funding.

Domestic Abuse

If you are the victim of domestic abuse by your ex and as we know, domestic abuse is not just physical violence but comes in many forms of abuse, from manipulation to alienation and financial abuse, legal aid may be available subject to your financial eligibility and strength of your case. Except in care proceedings where legal aid is automatic, if you want legal aid you will have to be able to produce evidence of the domestic abuse before you can apply, and that evidence must be through one of the following documents - its a long list, but you do only have to get one of these pieces of evidence before you can apply.

Types of evidence, but not an exhaustive list:

  1. A relevant conviction for a domestic violence offence;

  2. A relevant police caution for a domestic violence offence against you;

  3. Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a domesric violence offence committed against you which have not concluded;

  4. A relevant protective injunction;

  5. An undertaking;

  6. Evidence that the person has been arrested for a domestic violence offence;

  7. A letter from a member o a MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assesment Conference);

As Sir James Munby - former Head of The Family Division has said and we cite:

"What is needed, and it is apparent that this is now urgent if the family court is not to suffer further damage to its already gravely diminished standing, is enhanced training for judges at all levels in relations to all aspects - legal, procedural and psychological - of domestic abuse, including, in particular, sexual abuse and parental alienation"

Sir James Munby also admitted:

" We know that people game the system. The classic example of that is you get Legal Aid if there is an allegation of domestic violence"

Food for thought:

Sir James Munby was dealing with three unrelated private law cases, 'in which a father is seeking to play a role in he life of a child, who lives with the mother. In each of three cases the President was confronted with the same issues, namely, the mother having access to public funds while the father did not.

TTI also provides some links relevant to the above subject:

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