Legal Aid – a guide before you instruct

Legal Aid is money provided by the government to a person who does not have the means to pay for legal assistance. You may not be sure if it is available to you and if we can help. Here is a guide that will help to give you clarity on how we can help.

Which areas of family law is legal aid available for?

It is only available for a limited range of family matters including the following:

Am I eligible for Legal Aid?

Generally, to assess whether a person is eligible, there is a means and merits test. To assess this, the legal aid agency have a limit on how much income and capital a person can have before being eligible. The first step is to look at gross income. At the time of writing, the gross income limit is £2,657 per calendar month for a person with no children or up to 4 children and then for each additional child an extra £222 is allowed. If you earn more than this gross income then you will not get legal aid, whatever your outgoings are.

If you are in receipt of certain benefits, for example jobseekers allowance, then you will automatically satisfy the income test.

If you are within the eligibility criteria at this stage, the next step is to look at disposable income. Currently the disposable income allowance is £733 per month and as mentioned above if you have certain state benefits, you will automatically satisfy the disposable income test as well.

If you are within the eligibility limits for gross and disposable income, the final step is to assess capital allowance. The disposable capital allowance is up to £8,000 and it is unaffected by whether or not you are receiving state benefits. If, after taking capital into consideration, you are still within the eligibility criteria, you will have to submit an application to the legal aid agency for review and include evidence of your income and capital to support your application. Please remember capital does include assets such as being a home owner.

There is one area where you get non-means, non-merits or automatic legal aid, and that is if you have parental responsibility for a child who is subject to care proceedings.

It is important to note that this is general guidance and there are some specific cases to which the assessment may be different.

There is an eligibility calculator available for you. To find out if you are eligible, click here.

Do I have to pay it back?

Some types of legal aid require a contribution upfront and/or repayment. Depending on your means, you might have to make a financial contribution.

If once your case is resolved you keep or gain disputed property or money, the legal aid agency may seek repayment of their fees. This is often referred to as the ‘statutory charge’. However if you keep or gain property which you intend to live in, the legal aid agency may postpone payment of their charge and instead they will register their interest in the property on the title register. Similarly, if you receive money to assist with buying a home to live in, the legal aid agency may postpone payment of their fees to allow this money to be used for housing. If the legal aid agency do postpone payment of their fees, they may charge interest.

If I am eligible, can Gardner Leader act for me?

We currently only deal with legal aid cases relating to care proceedings.  If you require specialist assistance on this matter, please contact the team below.

Our Legal Aid Specialists Team

Unsure who to contact? Make a general enquiry:

Newbury Thatcham Maidenhead
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