Access to Justice: Understanding the Basics of Legal Aid Eligibility & Requirements

Access to Justice: Understanding the Basics of Legal Aid Eligibility & Requirements

Finding yourself in the middle of a family law matter can be an incredibly stressful experience. That worry and anxiety is only magnified if financial pressures mean you’re concerned about whether or not you can afford to appoint a family solicitor to represent you and ensure the best possible outcome for your case, and your family.

Fortunately, since 1949 legal aid has existed to help those without the financial resources to pay for a solicitor independently still have access to professional legal advice, representation, and mediation for eligible matters.

What is legal aid eligibility for?

Because legal aid is funded by public finances, there are specific guidelines governing the types of cases that legal aid applies to. That means it isn’t available to everyone, and it can’t be used for every kind of legal case you may find yourself involved with.

Legal aid is available for some criminal law cases and a wide range of family law disputes (provided you are confirmed for legal aid eligibility).

The types of cases where you can apply for financial assistance to access legal support include:

Other types of cases may also be eligible for legal aid, such as private law children matters and divorce. As it’s publicly funded, to help vulnerable individuals, eligibility criteria and the amount of support available will change as a result of government reviews and updated legislation.

In October 2022 for example, the UK government announced it was upping the amount of legal aid and free legal representation offered to victims of domestic abuse. In addition, it committed to spending an additional £10 million per year for housing legal aid, which gives those facing a repossession notice or eviction access to legal advice to help them keep their home before any court proceedings take place.

Despite any changes that do take place, assisting domestic violence and domestic abuse victims unable to pay their own legal costs is a key pillar of the legal aid system. This means that victims and their children can request financial support to pursue legal action against their abusers.

eligibility for legal aid

Who qualifies for legal aid UK?

As noted, legal aid is financed by the public purse. To qualify for legal aid, both the type of case and the financial circumstances of the applicant will be considered.

Those seeking legal support for a family case will need to show that their case has due seriousness and that they are financially unable to pay for the services of a solicitor themselves.

To verify financial status, the applicant will need to submit details of their financial circumstances. This will include salary details, any benefits being received, the total amount of money held in savings and information about any property owned.

Those under the age of 18 can qualify for legal aid but may be required to provide information about their parent or guardian’s financial status as part of their application.

UK citizens abroad can also qualify for legal aid in certain countries.

Additionally, people bringing a case under the Human Rights Act, or whose human rights are at risk, can also qualify for legal aid.

What is the maximum income to qualify for legal aid UK?

Legal aid is means-tested, meaning it’s only available to those below a certain level of income. Currently in civil cases, the upper gross monthly income limit is £2,657. Those in receipt of some state benefits (for example Universal Credit) will automatically be passported through this stage.

What is the income threshold for legal aid?

Following the upper gross income test, disposable income and disposable capital assessments will also be made. To be eligible for legal aid for a civil case – such as a divorce or in cases involving domestic abuse – successful applicants won’t have a monthly disposable income over £733. Their disposable capital (for example, from a property) also must not exceed £8,000.

There are some cases where the income thresholds for legal aid do not apply. Typically, these exemptions are for cases which involve instances of domestic violence or domestic abuse, forced marriages or female genital mutilation (FGM). They also do not apply to parents, minor children or anyone holding parental responsibility for a child in a care proceedings case.

It’s important to note that even those who are awarded legal aid may be required to pay some of the costs or pay back a portion of the legal aid awarded over a period of time.

National Legal Service is one of the country’s largest providers of legal aid for domestic abuse victims. Our knowledgeable and compassionate team can guide you through the application process.

Contact us to discuss your circumstances in confidence.

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