The Government plans to withdraw Public Funding (Legal Aid) for private family work within the next 12 to 18 months. This means that Legal Aid will no longer be available for divorce proceedings, settlement of financial matters or children’s issues including applications for contact, residence, parental responsibility, or specific issues. People who need help or advice in any of these areas will only be able to instruct solicitors on a private basis, regardless of their income. It is likely that the County Courts will receive more applications from people in family disputes who have decided to try to represent themselves but do not always have the knowledge of law and procedure to do so and have not had the benefit of advice as to what a Court is likely to decide for them. There is a concern amongst judges and lawyers as it is harder to be sure of doing justice in such cases and certainly that such Applicants will be less able to understand, and therefore ultimately accept as just, decisions which are made. Such cases will take longer to resolve and the result is likely to be longer delays for all Court users, not just those looking to resolve family issues.
Solicitor in Family Department, Kerseys
Thursday 8 September 2011