When and how can you Claim Legal Aid for Divorce?

Here at Higgins Miller we’re proud to be one of only a minority of law firms in the UK which have continued to provide legal aid services for our clients. We deal mainly in matters of family law such as wills and probate, adoptions and children disputes, and while many of these areas are no longer automatically covered by Legal Aid there are still some circumstances in which it’s possible, for example, to claim Legal Aid for divorce. We believe that everyone should have access to justice without having to worry about the cost, and that’s why we’re happy to explain the circumstances under which it might still be possible to claim Legal Aid for divorce. 

Legal Aid for divorce is far from an automatic provision. In the first instance, as with many other forms of Legal Aid, anyone successfully claiming Legal Aid for divorce will need to satisfy what are known as the means test and the merits test. The means test is a test based on your financial situation, and will require you providing details of all of your income from sources such as wages and benefits and any capital in the form of things such as property or shares. Some expenses such as rent and the cost of caring for dependents will be deducted, and the remaining figure will be treated as disposable income and used to determine whether you qualify for Legal Aid for divorce in terms of finances. 

The merits test for Legal Aid for divorce will involve an examination of factors such as whether there is a good chance of your case succeeding, whether the legal costs will be reasonable and whether a reasonable person would use their own money to fight the same case. 

When it comes to Legal Aid for divorce, however, it is only those cases in which a spouse or their children have been the victims of domestic abuse which have any chance of qualifying, even after the means and merit tests have been satisfied. In cases such as these, evidence will need to be provided of the domestic abuse in question, and the experts at Higgins Miller will be able to explain exactly what form this evidence can take. In some cases, the evidence in question will have to apply to the person attempting to access Legal Aid for divorce, and in others it could apply to a third party. In simple terms, this means, for example, that a piece of evidence such as an arrest for a domestic violence offence could apply to someone else other than the party attempting to secure Legal Aid for divorce. 

The evidence of domestic abuse which you’ll need to provide to support an application includes the following:

  • The abuser has been arrested for a domestic violence offence and is the subject of an on-going investigation
  • A police caution for domestic violence has been issued
  • There has been a conviction for a domestic violence offence
  • A court order is in place on the abuser in connection to a domestic violence offence
  • A domestic violence protection notice or protection order against the abuser is in place

Other forms of evidence could be provided by health professionals, and these would have to apply directly to you as the person seeking Legal Aid for divorce. The evidence from health professionals would include:

  • A letter or report from a health professional. This health professional should have access to the medical records of the person applying for Legal Aid for divorce, and should be able to confirm that they, or another health professional have examined the person in question and was satisfied after that examination that the person had injuries or a condition consistent with being a victim of domestic violence. 
  • A letter or report which states that the applicant for Legal Aid for divorce has been referred for professional support or assistance provided for victims of, or those at risk of, domestic violence.

The health professionals described above would have to fit the following criteria:

  • A medical practitioner licensed by the General Medical Council, such as a GP, a psychiatrist or a doctor working in A&E
  • A midwife or nurse, including occupational health nurses, health visitors, public health nurses, substance misuse nurses, mental health nurses and school nurses as long as they are registered to practise in the UK by the Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • A dentist, including clinical dental technicians, dental hygienists, dental nurses, dental technicians, dental therapists, and orthodontic therapists as long as they are registered to practice by the General Dental Council
  • A social worker, radiographer, practitioner psychologist or paramedic as long as they are registered to practice in the UK by the Health and Care Professions Council

Evidence could also be provided in the form of a letter from one of a number of domestic violence support services. These letters would confirm that the body in question is providing or has provided support to the applicant and must confirm the following:

  • The body in question is based in the United Kingdom
  • The body in question has been operating for an uninterrupted period of 6 months or more

The letter would need to state that in the professional opinion of the person writing it the applicant is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence, and should include details of the information used to reach that conclusion, the support provided to the applicant and the reasons why that support was needed. 

As even this fairly brief summary makes clear, applying for Legal Aid for divorce is still possible, but the process is fairly complex, which is why it’s always best to work with experts like those at Higgins Miller. In addition to working with clients to apply for Legal Aid for divorce where applicable, we also offer our services on a fixed fee basis, whether for the entire process of divorce, or for individual actions within that wider process. As a result, anyone working on a divorce case with us will know exactly what they are going to be paying throughput, and can pursue a fair result without worrying about costs spiralling out of control. 

If you’d like to find out more about Legal Aid for divorce please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.

Higgins Miller Logo