Did you know Legal aid is still available for family mediation on divorce or family break-down? In April 2013, the law surrounding Legal Aid changed. The government abolished legal aid for legal advice and representation for most family proceedings, unless there has been substantial domestic violence and significant evidential requirements are met. However, the Legal Aid Agency has retained legal aid for family mediation as the government wants to support and promote mediation for the resolution of family disputes where possible. Legal Aid has been available for family mediation for over 14 years and is considered a quicker and cheaper way of resolving family disputes as well as less stressful, than going through Solicitors and the Courts. Despite the fact Solicitors are very supportive of Mediation; this was not a widely used service with many preferring to litigate. However this has now changed with many Solicitors sending clients to mediation whilst they advise on their best interests.
Types of Mediation
There are three types of family mediation for which legal aid is available:
- Children only Issues
- Property and finance only Issues
- All issues mediation – i.e. both children and property and finance
There has to be a family dispute and the number of session will reflect the number of issues to be agreed and your approach to mediation. As a general guide there will be 1-3 sessions in a children only case, 1-4 sessions in a property and finance case and 1-5 sessions in an all issues case.
Are you Eligible?
The Legal Aid Agency has provided an online calculator to provide an indication as to whether you are likely to benefit from Legal Aid. Go to : http://civil-eligibility-calculator.justice.gov.uk/ If you come to a mediation intake assessment meeting (often referred to as a MIAM). You’ll be assessed for legal aid eligibility properly at assessment and the mediator will be examining your capital and income from all sources in the month leading up to the assessment, including the day of the assessment. It is necessary to provide documentary evidence of your finances. You must produce the necessary evidence to get legal aid as you must prove eligibility. If you qualify for legal aid you will not have to pay anything for either your mediation assessment or for mediation itself. Any partner who is ineligible for legal aid will have to pay for their share of the costs of mediation itself, though their assessment meeting will be free of charge, even if they come separately from you. If you get legal aid you will not have to pay a contribution, as legal aid for mediation is non-contributory. If your situation changes significantly after legal aid is granted, you may need to be re-assessed – this can mean either legal aid being granted or withdrawn, depending on the circumstances of your case.
Why should you use a mediator who offers legal aid?
If either party is eligible for Legal Aid it reduces the costs for sorting out your settlement by half, which makes a substantial difference as ultimately all dispute resolution costs come out of joint assets held by both parties. Legal Aid Mediators have spent up to 2 years training with experienced mediators, achieving the highest accreditation standard. They are qualified and experienced with dealing with matters that mean the most to you. They are also audited against the Legal Aid Agency Quality Mark which means it is a service audited against high quality standards set by the Legal Aid Agency.