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With effect from 1 April 2013, the scope of services covered by legal aid was reduced significantly with the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

In relation to family law and prior to LASPO, legal aid was available for all areas of family law advice provided the person applying was financially eligible (except in public law proceedings where legal aid is granted irrespective of a person’s financial means).

Since LASPO legal aid only remains available for the following:

  1. Public law proceedings (cases involving social services);
  2. Injunctive relief including non-molestation orders, occupation orders, forced marriage protection orders and other protective orders/injunctions;
  3. Representation and advice for children aged under 18 (as an applicant, respondent or where joined as a party to proceedings);
  4. Mediation; and
  5. International abduction cases where there has been an unlawful removal of a child, securing an order to prevent the unlawful removal of a child from the UK or to secure the return of a child unlawfully removed from or within the UK.

Since LASPO legal aid is not available for the following:

  1. Private children applications (e.g. child arrangements, parental responsibility, specific issue applications);
  2. Divorce/dissolution of civil partnership and disputes been unmarried couples; and
  3. Financial settlement applications.

Unless the person can demonstrate they have been a victim, or are at risk of domestic violence or where the child who would be the subject of the application has been or is at risk of abuse from another individual (who would be party to the proceedings).

Demonstrating domestic violence or child protection concerns can be difficult and requires the person applying for legal aid to produce specific evidence (known as ‘trigger evidence’).

The categories of evidence are set out in detail in the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations, namely Regulation 33 (domestic violence) and Regulation 34 (child protection).

Because the forms of evidence are prescribed by Regulation there is no discretion for the Legal Aid Agency to accept other forms of evidence or for the requirement to be waived in a particular case.

The Ministry of Justice has drafted useful guidance and template letters to assist a person to obtain ‘trigger evidence’ and these can be found at www.justice.gov.uk. The ‘trigger evidence’ must be dated within the last 24 month period immediately preceding an application for legal aid.

Fitzhugh Gates Solicitors Comment

At Fitzhugh Gates, our specialist family solicitors are experts in assessing whether a person qualifies for legal aid and if they don’t, how they may be able to obtain a form of ‘trigger evidence’ to ensure they do qualify.

If legal aid is not available in your case then we can often offer reduced ‘fixed fee’ rates for our advice rather than charging by the hour. Please contact us for further information and advice.

By Bridie Iveson - LLB Hons


Important guidance on articles published by Fitzhugh Gates Solicitors

All articles published through this website contain only general advice and are not intended as professional counsel and should not be used as such.

If you require specific advice with respect to any particular issue or problem highlighted by this article or any other matter, then please contact Fitzhugh Gates, the Solicitors for Brighton and Hove and Shoreham-by-Sea. 


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