When your solicitor asks for bank statements dating back months, please believe us when we say they are not just being difficult! Gemma Francis, a Conveyancer in WSP Solicitors’ Residential...
Do I Qualify for Legal Aid?
Family law touches thousands of people daily, and one of the biggest worries for families who may need legal support today is how they are going to afford the costs. With the rise in the cost of living in the UK, there are many questions asked about Legal Aid. Who is entitled to it? and how to apply.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid is when the government helps you pay for legal representation. Legal aid is available for both civil and criminal cases, although only certain people are eligible. At WSP we only offer Civil (family) legal aid only.
Civil legal aid is funding that can help meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal.
If you are going through a difficult family situation or are in a relationship and suffering from domestic abuse you may want some advice from a solicitor, or to even take the matter to court. In these situations, Legal Aid is a financial relief that may be available to those who qualify.
Despite this, Legal Aid might not always cover all the costs of your case. You may be required to make certain upfront payments or pay back certain costs if your case results in financial or material gains. Your legal team can gather all relevant information and decide whether your case merits enough for Legal Aid to be granted.
Who can apply?
Since 2013 the government introduced policy and legislation that has drastically cut large areas from legal aid. With government cutbacks, the guidelines for those who can apply for legal aid have significantly reduced. This means fewer people can now access legal aid. To be able to apply for legal aid, you need to show that:
There are two key factors required to determine your eligibility for legal aid.
- You must supply your solicitors/ the legal aid agency with evidence. To show that you are a victim of domestic abuse.
- You must meet the financial criteria to qualify for legal aid. If you receive a low income and/or are on a state benefit such as universal credit you may be eligible for legal aid.
If you do not meet the strict criteria that the legal aid agency has in terms of financial eligibility or the legal aid agency feels that you do not have good grounds for making a court application the legal aid agency can refuse your application for legal aid. This is why it is so important to obtain the advice of a solicitor. Here at WSP Solicitors our experienced team can assist you through this process.
You can also get an idea of whether or not you can get legal aid by using this online tool here. It is always best to see a solicitor to check. Here at WSP Solicitors, we can advise you of what evidence counts towards your case with a free initial 30-minute call.
How do you apply for legal aid?
You can only apply for legal aid through a solicitor. It is really important to find a solicitor that specialises in family law.
Here at WSP we undertake a variety of Legal Aid work and are happy to help you through what can be the most stressful time in your life. You can get in touch with our family team who will be able to advice you through a legal aid assessment as to your eligibility to receive legal aid.
Supporting evidence to provide the firm who is assisting you:
- Evidence of domestic abuse: Again, the legal aid agency has strict guidelines regarding what forms of evidence are accepted. We recommend taking the advice of a solicitor for full details of what can be used. This is something we will advise you of in your initial call with us.
- 3 months bank statements: The legal aid agency will need evidence of your financial circumstances. Only then they can determine if you meet the financial criteria. These need to be all accounts that you own including savings. Furthermore, if you are living with a partner, they will also need their bank statements too.
- 3 months wage slips: If you are working, we will need evidence of your income in the form of three months of wage slips.
- Proof of any state- benefits: If you are in receipt of any benefits at all, we will require proof of this. This can be as simple as a screenshot of your awards benefits such as universal credit.
So what happens next?..
Well depending on what level of legal aid you need, your firm will either retain the evidence on their file and complete a Legal Help form called a CW1 Form, or if there is going to be a court application your firm will complete a full legal aid application with the legal aid agency on your behalf. This is done electronically. Depending on the urgency of the legal aid application, it may take up to 10-14 working days to be reviewed. Here at WSP Solicitors, these forms are usually completed during your legal help assessment.
If your application is successful the legal aid agency will issue you with a certificate of which your firm can complete any work for you under. Therefore your solicitor will then advise you of what work can be completed under the certificate you have been given. Everyone will have different circumstances, and not everybody will be entitled to the same level of funding for legal work.
If you are not successful in your application, the legal aid agency will give clear guidance as to why they are unable to issue a certificate to you on this occasion.
How we can help?
If you think you may be eligible for legal aid and require a solicitor who can work under legal aid, please get in touch at 01453 847200 or email email@example.com and our family team will be more than happy to help.