Domestic Abuse: What Legal Aid is available?
In the UK 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Tilly Bailey & Irvine's Family Law Solicitors explain what legal aid is available.
Statistics are shocking; 2 women are murdered each week and 30 men per year.
Due to the extent of domestic abuse there have been strong calls to the Legal Aid Agency to ensure that Legal Aid is available to all of those who experience domestic abuse.
As a consequence Legal Aid is still available for those that have been in a domestic abuse-affected relationship for divorce, resolving financial arrangements on separation, resolving arrangements for children including applying for a Child Arrangement Order for a child to live with a particular person, Child Arrangement Order for contact/spend time with the child, a specific issue Order to make a certain Order regarding a child and a prohibited steps Order to prevent a certain action such as prevent a person removing the child from the country or from school, etc.
At times survivors of domestic abuse have had extreme difficulties in securing Legal Aid in order to be represented within proceedings if for instance there has been equity in their home, equity being trapped which cannot really be released without sale of the home or taking out additional borrowings which some are not in a position to be able to do.
On 24th November 2020 a High Court ruling was made in a case in which a Universal Credit claimant with only £28 in her bank account was unable to obtain Legal Aid to be represented in proceedings, as there was some equity within her property. The ruling means that the Legal Aid Agency now have a discretion when considering whether Legal Aid should be granted to survivors of domestic abuse to disregard such equity or capital as it cannot be released. If Legal Aid is denied it means that those survivors of domestic abuse would ultimately have to face their abuser in Court.
There has also been a cap on what mortgage allowance is taken into account by the Legal Aid Agency so, for instance, if a person does not have dependent children the maximum cap could be £545, when in reality a person may be paying significantly more. This has also been challenged and, with immediate effect, the Legal Aid Agency have been asked not to apply such a cap in the case of domestic abuse and to allow the true figure to be utilised.