January sees an increase in the number of people starting divorce proceedings. This trend may be the result of a stressful Christmas period pushing couples to breaking point.
The decision to end a marriage is never one that is taken lightly, but having access to good legal advice can make the process less daunting. Recent legislation may mean that some who would previously have been entitled to free legal advice and assistance will no longer have that option.
Legal Aid reforms will essentially mean that legal aid will not be available for divorce, matrimonial finances or children matters where there is no formal evidence of domestic violence nor involvement of social services.
Despite much criticism and concern on how less well off families will access legal advice, the reforms will be implemented from 1 April 2013.
This means that if you are unable to afford a lawyer, you will have to represent yourself. You will then be drafting and issuing documents, entering into agreements and representing yourself in court without having first received legal advice. It is clear that this is potentially a dangerous mix where you may not understand the fairness or implications of documents that you are asked to sign.
Acting without legal advice may put you in a vulnerable position and could mean losing out financially by accepting a financial settlement that is simply unfair, or not understanding the court processes to successfully achieve contact with your children.
At Kerseys we have always been committed to offering legal aid and will continue to do so in the limited types of cases where people are still entitled to it.
To address the forthcoming changes, we are expanding our services to offer help for people who are unable to afford to pay for full representation. We will offer assistance on a fixed fee basis, providing an explanation of the process and provision of some draft legal documents to help you on your way!
After our first meeting, we can tailor our future legal services based on your needs; agreeing what further steps you will need help with. This might include advice on completing a document or on the legal implications prior to signing it. Such assistance would be charged at a pre-agreed figure and would be on the basis that you continue to represent yourself.
For more information please contact a member of our Family Department on:
21 February 2013