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

Who Qualifies for Legal Aid?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 22 Dec 2016 |
 
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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Hi, My partner was recently made redundant. He also divorced in 2015, his ex wife got money from the sale of the house he was left with their debt, and was treated appallingly by the judge and her solicitor said that he was a 'Walter Mitty' when in reality she has made up utter rubbish and has made him out to be the liar. Anyway, he had regular contact with his children, 2-3 times a week where he even out the children to bed etc. Over the last year he moved up to be with me, which has led her to only allow him to see the children for 4 hours in a Sunday which has now been reduced to 2hours. It's breaking his heart. This is not conducive for a decent relationship with his children. Where does he stand on getting legal aid? What are his chances of getting decent quality time with his children? She will not even allow him to take the children out for walks. He had a high paid job in the NHS but due to cut backs he was made redundant. He has never been in trouble with the police etc. We need to have help.
Sad_partner - 22-Dec-16 @ 8:43 PM
Hi, it's hard to know what to put here but really I'm just after some legal advice and best way to go around things on 14th Feb 2013 me and my ex partner split and she took my daughter away from me in a very cruel manner basically she had reported me to police saying I had knocked her teeth out causing in my arrest for a.b.h I had to go through court in which it was all a lie the courts looked at all evidence and soon realised that I hadn't knocked her teeth out she had pulled them out herself but I did admit to pushing and spitting at her in which the courts charged me with so called common assault I admit spitting is a vile thing to do but in my circumstances it felt like the right thing to do at the time I was given 18 months probation order plus 100hrs community service. Since finishing probation I have tried contacting my ex to try to get some sort of access but whilst doing this I have had death threats in order to keep me away from my child which had now given me no other option but to go through courts.. only problem is I don't have the money to go through court or pay solicitor fees as I'm currently on benefits is there any possible way of going through court without the possibility of court fees or solicitor fees or is there any other ways of doing things... Any advice would be a godsend as I'm a father who loves and misses his daughter deeply and all I want is a chance to be in her life
Always hoping - 9-Dec-16 @ 11:30 PM
Matt - Your Question:
Hi, my ex doesn't let me see my daughter anymore. She won't let me see her anymore because I used to leave her home alone, Admittedly I don't pay cms, and am on a deduction of benefits order. I haven't made any contact with her or asked to see my daughter in over a year. I also at the beginning of the year told her I didn't want to parent anymore. I have applied for mediation with legal aid help but my daughters mum can't come for about 12 weeks, I don't know why, but the mediation service said it was for good reason. I declined waiting, and have my mediation appointment next week. Can I still get legal aid for court? And what can I apply for?

Our Response:
It is rare that Legal Aid is given these days, you would have to self-litigate if you wished to pursue the matter through court, please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself here.
SeparatedDads - 9-Dec-16 @ 2:09 PM
Matt - Your Question:
Hello in may I was seriously attacked and now due to a disability I'm unfit to work and claim ESA. Since this my Childs mother has stopped contact with him. Am I entitled to any help or do I just have to let her continye what she is doing as I can't afford help ?

Our Response:
Please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here. In the first instance you should request your ex attends mediation in order to try and resolve the issue outside of court, please see link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here. Legal Aid is still available for family mediation for people on a low income or receiving benefits. However, if the matter has to go to court, you will also be eligible for your court fees to be waived, please see link here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 9-Dec-16 @ 12:41 PM
Hello in may I was seriously attacked and now due to a disability I'm unfit to work and claim ESA. Since this my Childs mother has stopped contact with him. Am I entitled to any help or do I just have to let her continye what she is doing as I can't afford help ?
Matt - 9-Dec-16 @ 8:37 AM
Hi, my ex doesn't let me see my daughter anymore. She won't let me see her anymore because I used to leave her home alone, Admittedly I don't pay cms, and am on a deduction of benefits order. I haven't made any contact with her or asked to see my daughter in over a year. I also at the beginning of the year told her I didn't want to parent anymore. I have applied for mediation with legal aid help but my daughters mum can't come for about 12 weeks, I don't know why, but the mediation service said it was for good reason. I declined waiting, and have my mediation appointment next week. Can I still get legal aid for court? And what can I apply for?
Matt - 2-Dec-16 @ 11:51 AM
Carlton- Your Question:
My brother has a 10year old daughter. He split up from his ex when she was 2 he has always paid his maintenance and brought her loads of stuff. No his ex is saying he can't see her as much as he does loads of fun things with her and she's jealous of there closeness. She is no saying she sees her when his ex says and is saying she'll take him to court. He can't afford legal aid. Is there any way he can get free legal aid? Thanks Carlton

Our Response:
Your brother would have to self-litigate, please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here . However, before the court will allow him to apply, he will have had to have suggested mediation to his ex, in order to try and sort the matter out informally, please see link here. If she refuses mediation, then he can apply to court, see also: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, here. Many solicitors also offer the first half hour free, so it may be worth your brother taking some advice. The Citizens Advice Bureau can also help.
SeparatedDads - 1-Dec-16 @ 10:38 AM
My brother has a 10year old daughter. He split up from his ex when she was 2 he has always paid his maintenance and brought her loads of stuff. No his ex is saying he can't see her as much as he does loads of fun things with her and she's jealous of there closeness. She is no saying she sees her when his ex says and is saying she'll take him to court. He can't afford legal aid. Is there any way he can get free legal aid?Thanks Carlton
Carlton - 30-Nov-16 @ 11:53 AM
Danny - Your Question:
My ex has had a baby and is refusing me access due to a fallout now she is denying the child is mine I cant afford a solicitor or court fees who can help me

Our Response:
You can self-litigate if you cannot afford court fees and you may get a reduction in court fees if you are on a low income, please see link here and here. If your ex is denying your paternity, in the first place you would have to apply for a DNA test, please see link here , which you may also be eligible for a fee exemption. If it turns out you are the father, you can apply for parental responsibility to your child and contact/access through court.
SeparatedDads - 28-Nov-16 @ 2:11 PM
My ex has had a baby and is refusing me access due to a fallout now she is denying the child is mine I cant afford a solicitor or court fees who can help me
Danny - 25-Nov-16 @ 1:40 PM
My ex partner is refusing me to have my son 3.5 days each recently as that's what it has been for 2years. She's only just don't this as she has made a child maintenance claim and wanted them to believe she had our son more than me. 2 years ago.we had a written agreement from solicitors staying we have joint residency. Now she has gone to solicitors demanding me and my mum for our address?! I don't know if i should go mediation and then straight to courts to get 3.5 days each?? What's the best way around it without her dictating me?
Tom - 28-Sep-16 @ 9:12 PM
Hi, Is legal aid such a thing still - we're 7 years on and it's still ongoing :( Am I allowed to know if she is on legal aid or not, and how do I get to find out (Do their solicitors have to tell me if she is ?)
Jon - 5-Sep-16 @ 11:26 AM
when i first went to the child family courts their were three justices, for the first 3 or4 times, after fact finding cafcass, on the day of decisions and recommendations. their was only 2. is this legal...
pete - 28-Jul-16 @ 4:48 PM
My partner has a daughter who lives 350 miles away neither of us drive. The mother is being difficult and won't meet half way so he can have her for a week. He's not on the birth certificate so has no 'rights' where does he stand
Witsend - 22-Jul-16 @ 9:43 PM
Knight - Your Question:
I received a letter from my lawyer regarding estimated costs in relation to reaching a settlement on finances and childcare if mediation fails. I've been quoted to following: Finances - court hearings are likely to be in the region of £25-35k; and Child arrangements - £25k-35k plus counsels fee and disbursement Are these costs realistic and how does the average individual afford this without being eligible for legal aid. Secondly is it possible to divorce someone who claims they cannot afford a solicitor and refuses to engage with the process.Thanks

Our Response:
If you are taking the matter to court, please also be aware that you do not have to use legal representation and you can instead self-litigate through all or part of the process, please see link here. I cannot specify whether the figures quoted are accurate, much depends upon the size and complexity of your estate and your child access arrangements.
SeparatedDads - 23-Jun-16 @ 11:57 AM
I received a letter from my lawyer regarding estimated costs in relation to reaching a settlement on finances and childcare if mediation fails. I've been quoted to following: Finances - court hearings are likely to be in the region of £25-35k; and Child arrangements - £25k-35k plus counsels fee and disbursement Are these costs realistic and how does the average individual afford this without being eligible for legal aid. Secondly is it possible to divorce someone who claims they cannot afford a solicitor and refuses to engage with the process. Thanks
Knight - 22-Jun-16 @ 4:28 PM
Ladyp - Your Question:
I'm unsure of what to do to help a family member.he came out of prison after assaulting his partner but social services r no deeming him a risk and demanding he goes to court.a solicitor has informed us it will be five hundred pounds to initiate contact and further 130 per hr.he isn't working and waiting for benefit to come thru.would he b entitled to legal aid.?

Our Response:
He can self-litigate, please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here.
SeparatedDads - 21-Jun-16 @ 12:10 PM
I'm unsure of what to do to help a family member.he came out of prison after assaulting his partner but social services r no deeming him a risk and demanding he goes to court.a solicitor has informed us it will be five hundred pounds to initiate contact and further 130 per hr.he isn't working and waiting for benefit to come thru.would he b entitled to legal aid.?
Ladyp - 20-Jun-16 @ 5:50 PM
Dave - Your Question:
I have just been informed by post that my ex-wife is appointing a solicitor and they, in turn, are applying for legal aid for their client. I would like to know how she can apply for this when I cannot and also the solicitor she is using I actually contacted and had a consultation with just weeks before and they said at the time they would keep my details on file for 6 months in case I was to go back to them. Are they able to represent my ex-wife, or is this unprofessional and a conflict of interest?Kindest Regards

Our Response:
Legals Aid is very thin on the ground these days and is only available for certain types of cases. Please see link here for more information.
SeparatedDads - 9-Jun-16 @ 2:45 PM
I have just been informed by post that my ex-wife is appointing a solicitor and they, in turn, are applying for legal aid for their client.I would like to know how she can apply for this when I cannot and also the solicitor she is using I actually contacted and had a consultation with just weeks before and they said at the time they would keep my details on file for 6 months in case I was to go back to them. Are they able to represent my ex-wife, or is this unprofessional and a conflict of interest? Kindest Regards
Dave - 9-Jun-16 @ 5:40 AM
Dan - Your Question:
I have no PR although on my sons birth certificate.My son is 14 and has adhdAll social services etc inc police say my son is better with me, the mother has PR but does not want him, but does everything she can to stop him with me, including having him arrested, his welfare is at risk, all depts, including court are aware of thisWith ADHD he needs to be listened too and not abusedIn short I work on minimum wage and cannot afford a solicitor is there any help that I can get?My son is 250 miles away from me and so difficult with travelling etcAny suggestions will be greatly received

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Most parents who cannot afford legal fees self-litigate, please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here. You can also get the help of a McKenzie Friend, some services are free, some paid, but the advice is still much less expensive than a solicitor, please see link: Using a McKenzie Friend in Court, here. Take all the advice you can get for free, such as family law solicitors who can offer the first half hour free, or from the Citizens Advice Bureau and also use our Separated Dads Forum which should also help you with advice from dads that may have been through similar experiences and can advise. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 3-Jun-16 @ 10:20 AM
I have no PR although on my sons birth certificate. My son is 14 and has adhd All social services etc inc police say my son is better with me, the mother has PR but does not want him, but does everything she can to stop him with me, including having him arrested, his welfare is at risk, all depts, including court are aware of this With ADHD he needs to be listened too and not abused In short I work on minimum wage and cannot afford a solicitor is there any help that I can get? My son is 250 miles away from me and so difficult with travelling etc Any suggestions will be greatly received
Dan - 2-Jun-16 @ 11:29 AM
hariba - Your Question:
Hi, was just wondering what the procedure would be if both me and my daughters dad decided she was going to live with him how would I go about signing her into her parental care if that makes sense? Thabks

Our Response:
If you agree to the decision and you wish to have the matter authorised by the court, then Mediation may be the best route for you. Please see link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here.
SeparatedDads - 1-Jun-16 @ 12:41 PM
Hi, was just wondering what the procedure would be if both me and my daughters dad decided she was going to live with him how would I go about signing her into her parental care if that makes sense? Thabks
hariba - 31-May-16 @ 6:16 PM
Bob - Your Question:
I have a daughter to a Muslim lady in Malaysia. I flew out three times until I had no more money.We were not married. My name is not on her birth certificate either.She has since stopped all access to my daughter and is with someone else.She has friends with local government so if this went to court. I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. I feel crippled with emotional distress. I am finding it hard to concentrate with work and I would be homeless were if not for being at my parents.What advice can you give please?

Our Response:
I am very sorry to hear this. Unfortunately, in the global world we now live in this is an increasingly frequent occurance. However, the fact your ex has friends in local government shouldn't really affect your case whould you wish to take it to court. Of course the difficultly for you is the cost that this would involve due to the international aspect and the fact that you are not on the birth certificate which means you have no rights legally. But please do not lose hope and I urge you to continue working in order that you at least have financial options in the future. It also may be worth you speaking to someone such as your GP, or counsellor for some support and advice. Your main aim now is to get yourself back on your feet and then you can explore your options from there. Also, just because your ex has seemingly moved on, does not mean she won't be back in touch in the future, so you need to prepare yourself for the possible eventuality of this.
SeparatedDads - 19-May-16 @ 2:14 PM
I have a daughter to a Muslim lady in Malaysia. I flew out three times until I had no more money. We were not married. My name is not on her birth certificate either. She has since stopped all access to my daughter and is with someone else. She has friends with local government so if this went to court. I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. I feel crippled with emotional distress. I am finding it hard to concentrate with work and I would be homeless were if not for being at my parents. What advice can you give please?
Bob - 18-May-16 @ 8:40 PM
Az - Your Question:
Hi I'm after some advice, my brother and his ex have split up and she will not let him see his son at all, he has sent a parental responsibility letter to try and agree an involvement in the child's life but she has not responded to it.He receives employment support allowance due to his illness is there anyone he can turn to for help to get his son back in his life? or if need be advise me a step by step guide and I will represent him at court etc.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear your brother is unable to see his children. If he cannot afford legal fees he can self-litigate, please see link here. He can also use the help of a McKenzie Friend, please see link Using a McKenzie Friend in Court, here. See also: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, here which will tell you step by step how to go through the process. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 10-May-16 @ 2:10 PM
Hi I'm after some advice, my brother and his ex have split up and she will not let him see his son at all, he has sent a parental responsibility letter to try and agree an involvement in the child's life but she has not responded to it. He receivesemployment support allowance due to his illness is there anyone he can turn to for help to get his son back in his life? or if need be advise me a step by step guide and I will represent him at court etc.
Az - 9-May-16 @ 8:21 PM
Pat - Your Question:
Hi I'm new to this,I'm after some advice please,I've got 2 girls 11 and 9,I've had them every weekend without fail (sat to Sunday)never missed a weekend unless I'm banned from seeing them for some reason,mother has denied me as the farther since the day they have been born to council ect. And I'm not on ether of there birth certificate,I don't work as I've just lost my job and today she has said bout money that if I don't cough up she is going to csaPlease where do I stand as a farther

Our Response:
. Firstly, child maintenance and access have no bearing on each other, so your ex cannot stop you seeing your children if you don't pay. Secondly, if you are not working then despite her going to the Child Maintenance Service, if you are not earning a wage, then even the CMS will not expect you to pay. If your ex continues to deny access, then please see the link: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access here and go through the motions laid out in the article and if you are not on the birth certificate you can also apply for Parental Responsibility at the same time. If you cannot afford legal fees, you can self-litigate, here and apply for a reduction on court fees. Many parents are taking this route successfully. The Separated Dads Forum will also help if you need advise from dads who have been through similar issues and have come out the other side.
SeparatedDads - 28-Apr-16 @ 2:31 PM
Jo - Your Question:
My sons ex wife has his 10 yr old daughter. Although he sees her every other weekend his ex periodically rings him saying she can't cope or tells him he's not allowed access. His ex was brought up in care due to awful childhood and is messed up sadly. She has another child and another on way. His daughter is rarely in school. He is due to get married and has 2 step children. He has a job but wages won't be enough to go to court to gain custody. Custody is what he wants because his daughters wellbeing is being stunted and social services don't want to know. How can he take this to court with no disposable income.

Our Response:
He can self-litigate, please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here. The Bar Council also has a very informative guide, here. He can use a McKenzie Friend for legal advice (some are free and some charge), please see link here . Many parents are using self-litigation with good results, especially if they prepare their cases well and ensure they have the right information. Our Separated Dads Forum will also help for more personal advice on how to get the best from his case. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 28-Apr-16 @ 11:07 AM
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