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Legal Aid Scheme

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 5419, tabled on 20 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if his Department will include women unable to afford a divorce without access to legal aid as part of his Department's review of the financial eligibility thresholds for people seeking legal aid.

Answered on

28 January 2020

The Legal Support Action Plan (published in February 2019) announced a review of the legal aid means tests for England and Wales, which is currently underway and expected to conclude in Summer 2020 with a public consultation on potential policy changes to follow.

The Means Test Review is considering the thresholds for legal aid entitlement and their interaction with the wider eligibility criteria and is assessing the effectiveness with which the civil and criminal means tests protect access to justice, particularly for those who are vulnerable, such as victims of domestic abuse.

Divorce proceedings are not usually in scope for legal aid, other than when there is evidence of domestic abuse or child abuse. The Means Test Review is not considering changes to what is in scope for legal aid, however some divorce cases may qualify for legal aid under the existing Exceptional Funding Scheme, where there is a breach (or a risk of breach) of the individual’s human rights.

In addition, The Family Legal Team at Royal Courts of Justice Advice provide free and confidential legal advice to anyone in England and Wales who is not able to afford a solicitor. Litigants who feel they cannot afford the tribunal fee for their divorce proceeding may apply to the Ministry of Justice fee remissions scheme: Help with Fees.