Article in North East Times
In one of the biggest and most significant changes in 70 years, an act of parliament will come into force on April 1 that will end public funding, better known as Legal Aid, for almost anyone seeking divorce, financial provision, or court orders relating to children, such as contact and residence orders.
The press has been strangely silent on this issue, and few people are aware of the impending change, despite the fact that it will affect a significant proportion of society.
What are the changes?
Legal Aid, established in 1949, is a form of Government funding designed to provide access to legal advice and representation to people who would otherwise struggle to afford it.
It is means-tested and is classed as a loan, not a gift. It has long been held that Legal Aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law.
This is key in family breakdown circumstances: one party may well be the main or only breadwinner and the other may have little or no access to independent funds. Statistically, women are likely to be hit harder by these changes, and there will be a significant knock-on effect on the dependent children in the family.
A survey by the Citizens Advice Bureau found that over half of all its cases needed to be referred to a family law solicitor, and over 60 per cent were eligible for aid under the current rules.
After April 1, except in very specific circumstances involving domestic violence, none of these cases will be eligible to receive Legal Aid, regardless of their income or assets.
How can we help?
As a niche family law practice Major Family Law are aware of the difficulties the forthcoming legislation will create for many people. However, as specialists in the field we offer a wide range of options to provide accessible legal advice and assistance to everyone, even if you aren’t affected by the changes to public funding.
Some of the options we can offer are:
Free initial interview: Just come and talk to us. No obligation and no fee.. Discuss your concerns and find out what your options are. We will equip you to take the next step, with or without our help.
Fixed fees: We offer a competitive fixed fee for uncontested divorce proceedings, which includes all court fees, so you know from the outset exactly how much you will have to pay.
Pay As You Go: Quite literally, you pay for our services as and when you need them and do the rest yourself. Take total control of your spend and access legal advice or assistance as and when you need it with the flexibility to opt for a different plan at any time.
Dispute resolution: It is not a foregone conclusion that all matters will end with court proceedings in order to reach an appropriate outcome. At Major Family Law, we are committed to alternative ways of dealing with family law matters in recognition of the stress, delay and uncertainty that often arises from Litigation and court proceedings. We look to resolve matters and reach solutions in a child focused, conciliatory way. Dispute Resolution can involve arbitration, mediation, the collaborative approach or round table meetings.
When we meet with you, we will explain these processes in more detail, and we will never push you into a situation that you are uncomfortable with.
At Major Family Law we equip you with the information, advice and expertise you need to face your future with confidence. If you are concerned about how the changes to Legal Aid will affect you, contact us for a confidential chat.
Rebecca Tarn is a solicitor at Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists.
Tel: 01661 824582 – firstname.lastname@example.org