Home > The Court Process > Who Qualifies for Legal Aid?

Who Qualifies for Legal Aid?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 8 Dec 2017 |
 
Legal Aid Funding Family Court Solicitor

Legal aid in England and Wales is a means by which legal services are made available to certain people who would not otherwise be able to afford a lawyer. That means people who earn over a certain amount of money, or have a certain amount in assets or savings, will not be eligible. Some people will have all their legal expenses paid, whereas others will have to pay a contribution towards their legal costs. Those who are automatically entitled to legal aid are those who are on income support, income based job seeker's allowance or guaranteed state pension credit will be entitled to legal aid.

Not Receiving Benefits?

People who are not receiving these benefits may be eligible if they are able to show that their capital and income are within a certain limit. If you are currently living with a partner, their income and capital are also taken into account for these purposes. There is a useful financial eligibility calculator on the Community Legal Service website. You will need to answer a number of questions about your personal and financial situation and the legal problem that you are facing. The calculator also shows you how to work out your disposable capital. It is worth remembering, however, that this is a guide only and you may still be eligible for legal aid, even if the calculator deems you not to be.

Types of Legal Aid

Initial advice and assistance from a solicitor is covered by what is called ‘legal help’. If you need assistance at court, you can apply for ‘help at court’. Do not worry about filling out these forms yourself, as your solicitor will do this for you. You may need to provide proof that you are in receipt of benefits or alternatively proof of your income and capital. In respect of both of these types of legal aid, you need to apply before you attend proceedings as the legal funding cannot be granted retrospectively. If you are entitled to either of these types of legal aid, you will not need to pay a fee at court for lodging proceedings.

If you have to go to court, there are two types of legal aid that are available. ‘Investigative help’ is designed to bridge the gap between legal help and a full representation (court) certificate, and is limited to investigating the strengths of a party’s claim. A full representation certificate pays for your representation in court. It is worth noting that each type of legal funding carries a time limit – over which a solicitor cannot go without seeking prior authority from the Legal Services Commission. Your solicitor will not be able to go over these limits without an extension. If the extension of funding is not granted, you will need to pay for the rest of the work to be completed.

Finding a Legal Aid Firm

This can sometimes be harder than you think, as firms that are franchised to undertake family law matters are only allowed to take on a certain number of cases and can fill their quota. Some solicitors offer a free half an hour consultation to ascertain the nature of your difficulty and advise you as to your option. It is unwise to take advantage of this and ‘shop around’ at several different firms, because you could waste valuable time in terms of your case and are unlikely to get the answers you want within this limited period of time. The best way to find a good law firm is to ask others for a personal recommendation (read the article Does Having A Good Lawyer Help? on this site). If this isn’t possible, go onto the Law Society website and type in your postcode in the ‘I need a solicitor’ box at the top right-hand side of the page. This will enable you to find solicitors’ firms that are local to you.

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[Add a Comment]
I have a induction order against my husband because of domestic violence. I have to go to court on the 14th Dec 2017 and my solicitor hasn't yet filed the papers to the court what will happen that day.
Boboo - 8-Dec-17 @ 2:37 PM
Kaz - Your Question:
My daughter wants to no if she can get help with costs for a solicitor to take ex to family court as he will not let her see her two sons who live with him

Our Response:
Unfortunately, applications for legal aid are very rare. You can check via the gov.uk link here to see if she may be eligible. If your daughter cannot afford legal representation, then she can represent herself, please see link here. Self-litigation has taken over from Legal Aid. Before your daughter applies to court (as court is always seen as the last resort), she would have to suggest mediation to her ex in order to try to resolve the issues informally, please see link here . Please also see link here, which may help further.
SeparatedDads - 1-Dec-17 @ 1:58 PM
My daughter wants to no if she can get help with costs for a solicitor to take ex to family court as he will not let her see her two sons who live with him
Kaz - 1-Dec-17 @ 6:35 AM
My ex has done a flit with my son and stopped all contact with myself and whole family as she left alot of debt behind i have started access proceedings but need to submitt c4 form to find her how long and what is the process . We miss him so much.
stuffy - 22-Nov-17 @ 5:28 PM
Dg - Your Question:
My ex is stopping me from seeing my son for no reason atall it is upesetting me to see him upset she has told me she does not want me to have anything to do with him

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. However, you do not have to accept her decision, please see link here . If you cannot afford legal representation, you can self-litigate, please see link here. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. The courts do want fathers to have a relationship with their chidlren, and it will do its best to make this happen where it can.
SeparatedDads - 14-Nov-17 @ 3:02 PM
My ex is stopping me from seeing my son for no reason atall it is upesetting me to see him upset she has told me she does not want me to have anythingto do with him
Dg - 14-Nov-17 @ 1:51 AM
foxy - Your Question:
My ex has stopped me seeing my aghtrt and stepson.no reason kept up paymemtsnnever missed seeing her once

Our Response:
Please see: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, link here , which should tell you all you need to know.
SeparatedDads - 23-Oct-17 @ 2:23 PM
foxy - Your Question:
I seperated from my daughter nnm 3 years ago. never missed a child sport payment. I lost mysight in one eye leaving me with no job.i have never missed having my daghter and step s0hshe is refusing me access until it goes to cotrt

Our Response:
Child access and child maintenance have no bearing upon each other. If your ex is keeping your child away from you, purely on the basis that you are not eligible to pay child maintenance, then the court will not condone this action. If you have had a consistent relationship with your child to date, then this should be reinstated. If access was stopped because you were no longer eligible to pay child maintenance, then you need to make this clear prior to/in court. If you cannot afford legal representation, you can self-litigate, please see link here . As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 23-Oct-17 @ 1:39 PM
my ex has stopped me seeing my aghtrt and stepson. no reason kept up paymemtsn never missed seeing her once
foxy - 22-Oct-17 @ 8:45 PM
i seperated from my daughternnm 3 years ago. never missed achild sport payment. i lost mysight in oneeye leaving me with no job. i have never missed having my daghter andstep s0h she is refusing me access until it goes to cotrt
foxy - 22-Oct-17 @ 8:37 PM
Hi my friend is from Thailand and is married to English man but are now separated she is trying to get access to daughter and cant afford solicitors
Ross - 11-Oct-17 @ 10:18 PM
Mutley - Your Question:
My ex partner died and I'm on low wage,we have children together but family has his property as we were estranged. They have become less accommodating as promised to my children can my 15yr old get legal help against them

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here, which should help answer your question.
SeparatedDads - 9-Oct-17 @ 3:48 PM
My ex partner died and I'm on low wage,we have children together but family has his property as we were estranged. They have become less accommodating as promised to my children can my 15yr old get legal help against them
Mutley - 7-Oct-17 @ 1:22 AM
I applied for LA in support of a Barder event following a divorce but I could not provide the medical evidence in time seems that even though the court failed to send the papers to me In Good time even the Pro Bono unit couldn't help so even with mental health issues I was forced to be a Litigant-in-Person and most likely did not present my case well. The changes to the legal aid system has had a devastating effect on the outcome from my divorce particularly where the court has failed to recognise the mistakes they have made.
Dr Grumpy - 21-Sep-17 @ 7:35 AM
paula - Your Question:
My partner is out of work and not claiming benefits how can he get help in court with legal aid as he's been told he's not entitled to it

Our Response:
It is highly unlikely he will be awarded Legal Aid, he can self-litigate, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 14-Sep-17 @ 12:38 PM
My partner is out of work and not claiming benefits how can he get help in court with legal aid as he's been told he's not entitled to it
paula - 13-Sep-17 @ 6:29 PM
Rob - Your Question:
Hi, I have two children with my ex. We have been separated 3 years now and want to have full custody of my children. My son is 11 and my daughter is 4 years old. Can I make this happen?

Our Response:
It is rare a court will changed the resident parent unless absolutely necessary. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the children in question. The court will always put the children’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. As a rule, the court will attempt to maintain the least disruption as possible and will not move children from one parent to another without a very good reason. In which case you should seek legal advice.
SeparatedDads - 11-Sep-17 @ 3:42 PM
Hi, I have two children with my ex. We have been separated 3 years now and want to have full custody of my children. My son is 11 and my daughter is 4 years old. Can I make this happen?
Rob - 9-Sep-17 @ 3:22 PM
My partner has 3 children to his ex wife. she has since had 2 other children to 2 different fathers and is now in a 3 bed house with 5 children to 3 different dads. she is currently part co-habiting with the latest father who also has custody of 2 children. When my partner and his exs relationship broke down he went to find himself I guess and admittedly disappeared for 2 years he left her everything and he was forced from the home and told if he left her he would never see the kids. admitidly he never paid csa during this point or had any contact and not that im making excuses but as a young lad he didn't know where to turn. he came back and a year after met me and for 3 years we have been together and I have been with him and found out his rights. he is a very good dad and initially his ex was having none of it however through mediation which we paid for and she got for free he got to see them every other sunday in a play centre for 3 hours supervised, this then went to unsupervised, then I was aloud to attend, then his ex came saw our house saw we had a room all set up for them and via mediation we were aloud to have them from 10-5 at our house he picks them up every other sunday. he was wanting contact to increase to over night stays however his ex refuses this, he would like his sister who has never met them and his mother who only met them once to be part of their lives but his ex refuses for no logical reason other than when the eldest was born his mum said to him and her that they have options as were both very young. the mediation sessions his ex ruled them and overpowered the conversations with discussions around money, due to the benefit cap she has been hit hard which we understand and talks money all the time, my partner pays csa however they have messed a few things up and delayed things due to him moving jobs and a small period of unemployment. we are not paying backdated money and he is paying 710 a month out of a 1800 salary straight to her which is actually crippling us as a couple. for this reason paying a solicitor is just not a option. due to mediation revolving around money and the contact not developing my partner wrote to mediation and asked for the next session to not be around money and to be about contact, his ex refused therefore mediation failed and they sent me their part of a c100 form to which we have filled out a c100 ourselves with a copy of this and are looking to self represent. all he/we would like is every other weekend full contact from Friday night till sunday evening, shared 50/50 contact during school holidays,. ability to let his mum and sister be part of their lives, involvement in educational and medical appointments and a open line of communication.
Charlie - 8-Sep-17 @ 3:10 PM
Deb - Your Question:
I have a 13 month old boy who's father isn't present at all in his life ' he just comes and go's as he pleases 'And now he's told me he is done being his father and that he will find my son when he's older to understand !! What can I do about getting all parental rights over my son ' I don not want my sons father in his life at all now

Our Response:
By what you have said, your ex does not want your child in his life which means you naturally have parental rights i.e if he returns in a few years time, you can automatically deny access and your ex would find it more difficult to have access re-instated through the courts. However, once your child is an adult there is little you can do regarding your ex making contact with your son.
SeparatedDads - 29-Aug-17 @ 3:39 PM
I have a 13 month old boy who's father isn't present at all in his life ' he just comes and go's as he pleases ' And now he's told me he is done being his father and that he will find my son when he's older to understand !! What can I do about getting all parental rights over my son ' I don not want my sons father in his life at all now
Deb - 29-Aug-17 @ 1:40 AM
Al85 - Your Question:
So my situation is, my ex partner doesn't let me see my children. Our relationship contained DV and after all that she was letting me see my children, but when she found out I was talking to another woman and because I was out with the children and it was pouring with rain, I took them home after an hour and a half as I had no money to take them anywhere and it was pouring down. She then claimed I let them down and has refused to let me see them in 3 years. I have EUPD which is an emotional personality disorder therefore am on disability, unfortunately due to no legal aid I don't have the sort of money for solicitors fees etc so it's a struggle and makes me look a bad father because I haven't managed to do anything about this. But not seeing the two most important people in life does affect me emotionally as it would any father and obviously I can't represent myself due to mental health and the background and I don't know what to do am at my tether with it because it does get me down but just seems there is no help

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. If you cannot afford the hefty legal fees, you can self-litigate, please see link here , should you wish to take the matter to court. However, in the first instance you can apply for mediation, which you also should get financial help with if you are in receipt of benefits.
SeparatedDads - 17-Jul-17 @ 11:19 AM
So my situation is, my ex partner doesn't let me see my children.Our relationship contained DV and after all that she was letting me see my children, but when she found out I was talking to another woman and because I was out with the children and it was pouring with rain, I took them home after an hour and a half as I had no money to take them anywhere and it was pouring down.She then claimed I let them down and has refused to let me see them in 3 years.I have EUPD which is an emotional personality disorder therefore am on disability, unfortunately due to no legal aid I don't have the sort of money for solicitors fees etc so it's a struggle and makes me look a bad father because I haven't managed to do anything about this.But not seeing the two most important people in life does affect me emotionally as it would any father and obviously I can't represent myself due to mental health and the background and I don't know what to do am at my tether with it because it does get me down but just seems there is no help
Al85 - 14-Jul-17 @ 11:05 PM
ash- Your Question:
The story is my ex partner took my now 16 month old daughter, and promised to hand her back, but he hasnt, I have been to the police but they cant do nothing as he is on the birth certificate, I think its down to jealousy as I had told him the night before he took my daughter I was seeing someone else. I am so depressed and miss my daughter so much, and my lawyer is useless, and things dont seem to be going anywere, I only see her once every other few weeks through social work, which is not enough, I just dont know what to do next. and I just heard my ex partner has been refused legal aid, so dont know whats going to happen next, going to take ages for him to reapply for the legal aid

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Please see link: What Happens If My Ex Keeps the Children Without My Consent? here which will tell you what you need to do.
SeparatedDads - 29-Jun-17 @ 3:10 PM
the story is my ex partner took my now 16 month old daughter, and promised to hand her back, but he hasnt, i have been to the police but they cant do nothing as he is on the birth certificate, i think its down to jealousy as i had told him the night before he took my daughter i was seeing someone else. i am so depressed and miss my daughter so much, and my lawyer is useless, and things dont seem to be going anywere, i only see her once every other few weeks through social work, which is not enough, i just dont know what to do next. and i just heard my ex partner has been refused legal aid, so dont know whats going to happen next, going to take ages for him to reapply for the legal aid
ash - 28-Jun-17 @ 2:19 PM
Hi, For the first 5 months of my daughter life i always there and hands on with regards to her well-being. My partner moved out 4 months ago saying she wanted to end things. For the first 6 weeks of this time I had overnight contact with my 6 month old (3 times). After that time, i was denied all access without reason, i was blocked so i could not even contact my ex, (I did write letters formally asking for permission) and now its been 3 months of not seeing my daughter. I am in the process of mediation. we both have the appointment next week. On what grounds can my partner deny overnight access? I understand the contact will need to be built up and I am willing to build that up for my daughters sake. Its sad that she may have forgotten my face as she is so young. But can my partner refuse overnight access? If I do go to court, is there any idea of how much contact I will be entitled to? Thanks
M - 13-May-17 @ 5:09 PM
How can somebody be receiving lega aid representation when they are lying about thier income? This person has also been scheduled to work 40 hours a week at $9.60 hour and has not been showing up to work . In fact out of the ten days they were scheduled to work the past two weeks they only showed up to work three of those days. Where is this fair to those people who do go to work and get turned down for help.
Danyale - 29-Apr-17 @ 5:23 AM
My ex is refusing to move contact forward I want to have my daughter overnight and my ex is not letting me until she comes to see my home which me and my current partner aren't happy with you I tried to set up mediation to solve this but she didn't show up now I'm thinking Court might be the only option as I don't feel that she should have the right to come into my home also she is very biased more than anything to use an excuse to cut or stop contact can't assured legal
Mankind84 - 1-Apr-17 @ 11:00 AM
Samie- Your Question:
Hi I have a 3 year old girl lived with from being born my partber ha s a older daughter wich I took on as my owm for.8 years she never seen.her dad coz he was a drug user. I spent tgousands on her over years I gv everything the needed. Howerver she got bk intouch with her dad as she got the age 13 my child was only 1 soon as tht happend my parents home got targeted by her dad a had a hatred towards her from thn cz she caused it. By teling tales her mam wud stand by her watxhing her x smash her babys girls nans home.up I took a lot ov shjte for years and ended it. Now soon as av walked av been told am.nlt t see my child she cahnged al.number and I carnt go t her home cz she rimg the police. Im gutted a miss my baby gorl.so much. I think.its disgraceful how woman czn use children as a weapon

Our Response:
If your ex is denying you access to your daughter, please see link here. If you cannot afford to be represented by a solicitor you can self-litigate, please see link here. You may wish to suggest mediation to your ex, which you have to do before the courts will let you apply. If your ex says no, then the sooner you push ahead with taking the matter further, the sooner you will get to see your child as the process can take time.
SeparatedDads - 15-Mar-17 @ 2:43 PM
Hi i have a 3 year old girl lived with from being born my partber ha s a older daughter wich i took on as my owm for.8 years she never seen.her dad coz he was a drug user.I spent tgousands on her over years i gv everything the needed. Howerver she got bk intouch with her dad as she got the age 13my child was only 1 soon as tht happend my parents home got targeted by her dad a had a hatred towards her from thn cz she caused it. By teling tales her mam wud stand by her watxhing her x smash her babys girls nans home.up i took a lot ov shjte for years and ended it. Now soon as av walked av been told am.nlt t see my child she cahnged al.number and i carnt go t her home cz she rimg the police.Im gutted a miss my baby gorl.so much.I think.its disgraceful how woman czn use children as a weapon
Samie - 15-Mar-17 @ 12:53 AM
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