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How can I get family law legal advice?

Family law issues are serious problems, and sometimes the only way to solve them is by taking those issues to court.

But before taking that action, you should get proper family legal advice from law professionals who can explain what actions should be taken for your particular case. 

In this article, you’ll discover how you can get family legal advice and what options you have if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer. 

What is legal advice?

The simplest definition of legal advice is that it is the advice given in written or oral form by a lawyer or other licensed person about a legal matter. The legal advice will inform the person who receives the advice – the client – what action they should take. The legal advice requires legal knowledge, education, skill, judgement, and applying particular law to a specific set of circumstances.

Legal advice can be confused with legal information, but they are not the same thing. Legal information is something very general, and it can be obtained from anyone, no matter if they are allowed to practice law or not. This type of information is not specific to someone’s case, and it’s not as exact as legal advice is.

Family legal advice, is advice written or oral, from a family lawyer or other licensed person, which advises the client what action should be taken, specifically about a family law issue. 

How can I get legal advice?

The best way to get access to legal advice is by working with a lawyer. A lawyer is a general term used to describe the people who are authorised by law to work on a legal case. However, they are divided into two categories, which are solicitors and barristers. 

A solicitor is a legally qualified person who is usually responsible for preparing legal documentation before and during a court case. A solicitor also gives legal advice to his or her clients and could also represent them in court.

On the other side, a barrister is a legally qualified person who is responsible for representing and defending the clients at the tribunal. Barristers can also give legal advice.

If people want to receive legal advice, they usually contact a solicitor first. After they are given the advice and the solicitor prepares the documentation needed for the trial, they can choose to be represented by the solicitor or by a barrister.

But there are cases when people contact a barrister first for receiving legal advice, and that is fine too. 

When dealing with a family law issue, it is very important to choose a lawyer that is specialised in working with family law issues cases because they are more likely to help you win your case as well as help you obtain family legal aid, should you need it.

How much do family lawyers cost?

The fees charged by lawyers to work on someone’s case varies depending upon the lawyer and the case. Usually, lawyers charge an hourly rate for the time they work on a case.

Before working on your case, the lawyer should tell you what their hourly rate is and what the estimated costs for your case are going to be. You have to keep in mind that the estimated costs might change during the time the lawyer works on your case, and you should be notified if and when that happens. Also, the lawyer should constantly keep you up to date with the progress they make on your case.

Some law firms have fixed fees for working on common types of cases or for doing specific pieces of work. Sometimes, the clients might decide to do some part of the work themselves to save costs, and they need a lawyer to do some other parts, such as representing them at the tribunal.

What can I do if I can’t afford to pay for a family lawyer?

Unfortunately, some victims don’t have enough money to pay for a lawyer to receive legal advice to solve their family law issues. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t receive help to solve their family law issues.

The UK Government offers legal aid, which is a government program that assists victims in paying for legal advice, family legal advice, family mediation, court representation, and other costs associated with their case. 

Still, not everyone is eligible for this program. Whether or not you qualify for legal aid is determined by the nature of your legal problem, the amount of money you earn or obtain in benefits, and any property you own.

Legal aid for family law

There are a certain number of family law issues you can get legal aid for. Here are a few issues that could qualify you for family law legal aid:

  • You would like to go to consultation to help resolve issues with your ex, such as child custody or financial arrangements when you are either divorced or are in the process of getting divorced.
  • You would like a court order to keep you safe from your ex or maybe another family member who is abusive to you. This kind of order is commonly referred to as an injunction or a non-molestation order. You may also require an order stating that the harassing person is not permitted to visit you for a set period. This is known as an occupation order
  • You have already suffered or are at risk of suffering domestic violence from your ex, and you need legal advice regarding your divorce or civil partnership dissolution, your financial arrangements, or child custody arrangements. You’ll need proof of domestic violence
  • The case includes a child. For example, you may be trying to decide who your child will live with, or the child is at risk of abuse from the person involved in the case (for example, your ex). You’ll have to provide proof of child abuse if that is the case 
  • Your child was taken from the UK without your approval, or you’re attempting to prevent somebody from taking your child from the UK without your approval
  • Your child has been taken to another location in the UK without your consent

How to get evidence of domestic abuse?

In certain cases where the victim has been a victim of domestic abuse, the victim has to provide proof of domestic abuse to qualify for family legal aid.

Domestic abuse is defined as controlling, restrictive, hostile, humiliating, or violent behaviour by a family member towards other family members. Abuse can occur in many ways, and it’s not always physical violence. It could be emotional, financial, physical, or sexual violence as well.

Some common forms of domestic abuse evidence are:

  • A letter from a medical professional declaring that you have a physical injury or a condition associated with being a victim of domestic violence
  • A letter from the police declaring that your ex was charged with domestic violence and that you had been the victim
  • A statement from the housing association or the landlord that they assume you’re now in danger of domestic abuse or have already been a victim of domestic abuse

Those are only a few examples of domestic abuse evidence that you can obtain, and the solicitor you talk with might tell you about other types of evidence you can obtain as well.

The solicitor you talk with may advise you to contact whoever you believe can provide evidence and request it. Alternatively, they may be able to assist you in doing this.

Consider what type of proof would be the most convenient to obtain in terms of both time and cost. For instance, obtaining information from the police can take quite some time, but it’s free, whilst your GP may bill you for a letter. 

If you do have a domestic abuse support worker who can provide proof, they may be the best, fastest and least expensive (free) alternative for you. This can take a little time to figure out just what proof you can obtain, where to obtain it, then get it to a solicitor.

What other criteria do you have to meet for legal aid?

Legal aid is only offered when the case is considered serious, and the victim has a low income or doesn’t have any savings or assets, such as properties. Also, if you have a new partner, their financial situation counts, too.

However, there are cases when victims might receive legal aid even though they jump over the income limits if their case involves domestic abuse. But these situations are rare, and the victim should pay a small part of the legal expenses.

How to apply for legal aid?

Legal aid can only be obtained through a solicitor. If you’re looking for a family law solicitor, you should try Resolution. Resolution is the biggest organisation for family issues lawyers in the UK. You can find out which solicitors in your area accept legal aid by looking for the green tick alongside their name on the Resolution website.

When you arrange a meeting with a solicitor to see whether you qualify for legal aid, you should also be told in advance what steps you must take and what documentation you must bring. You will need to bring identification as well as evidence of your address. You will usually have documents to demonstrate your economic state.

Documentation needed for legal aid 

  • Financial records for the last three months for all bank accounts you have 
  • Pay stubs for the previous 3 months
  • An up-to-date letter outlining your benefits 
  • Evidence of your mortgage or rent payments 
  • Evidence of how much you spend on childcare
  • Evidence of what you pay for or receive as maintenance, if applicable

The solicitor will then determine whether you’re eligible for legal aid and ensure that they have all the evidence so they can apply for legal aid for you. If a solicitor says that you’re not eligible for legal aid, you should contact another solicitor and see if you’re eligible or not.

The rules about the financial evidence required to apply for legal aid are very strict. Without proper evidence, the solicitor will be unable to help you in obtaining legal aid. So, you must obtain everything the solicitor requests as soon as possible. 

The solicitor can only begin working for you under legal aid once they receive a letter from the government stating that you are eligible.

You have to know that even if you receive legal aid, it may not completely cover the cost of your case. Based on the financial situation, you may be required to: 

  • Pay a portion of the costs upfront. This could be billed from your monthly income or from any savings you have
  • If you receive money or property as a result of your case, you must repay some of the costs

What to do if you’re not eligible for family law legal aid?

Unfortunately, not all family law cases are eligible for legal aid. The reasons might be because the cases are not serious enough, or the victims go over the income limit. In such situations, the victims have to find other ways to solve their family law issues, but not all of them can afford to pay the fees charged by lawyers. 

Some other ways to get legal advice or solve family law issues without having to pay big amounts of money are:

  • Book a free or low fee appointment with a solicitor 

Some solicitors offer free or low fees short appointments. These appointments usually last 20 to 30 minutes, and victims can receive some legal advice and guidance on their family law issues during them. It’s important to prepare for your appointment by noting important aspects you want to discuss.

  • Find a “no win, no fee” scheme

Certain solicitors provide a ‘no win, no fee’ option for civil cases such as family law issues.

If you win the case, the agreed-upon solicitor’s costs and fees will be deducted from your compensation. You should be able to recuperate some of your expenses from the other party.

If you lose, you will most often not have to pay your solicitor’s fee, but you might have to pay for something. You should carefully review the agreement and ask the solicitor to describe in detail what you may be required to pay if you lose. 

Before the court case, you may be able to obtain a special insurance policy that will cover your costs if you lose.

  • Get help from LawWorks

LawWorks is England and Wales’ leading pro bono charity for solicitors. It was created to give people who aren’t eligible for legal aid and can’t afford to pay the lawyer fees the chance to defend their cases. This organisation connects people who are in need of legal advice to volunteer solicitors who will help them with their cases for free.

  • Get help from The Personal Support Unit

The Personal Support Unit (PSU) is a non-profit organisation that assists people who don’t have a legal representative when they appear in court. The PSU does not provide legal advice but rather provides guidance and moral support to victims in a variety of courts throughout England and Wales. The service is completely free.

  • Get help from Advocate 

Advocate is a charity foundation that helps people who aren’t eligible for legal aid and can’t afford to pay for their legal expenses themselves to be represented in court. Advocate connects those people with a volunteer barrister who will defend them in court for free.

  • McKenzie Friends 

If you don’t have a lawyer, you could bring a person who isn’t legally qualified, such as a friend, to sit with you and provide general support. That person is called a McKenzie Friend. 

You will need to request permission from the judge to allow the McKenzie Friend to support you. Queries for such support are denied only for strong reasons, and the judge must properly explain them to you and your suggested McKenzie Friend.

A McKenzie friend can sit with you, give you suggestions, take notes, and assist you in organising documentation. If they don’t have special approval from the judge, a McKenzie Friend won’t be permitted to speak on your behalf to the judge or other parties involved in the case. 

So, how can you receive family law legal advice?

Getting appropriate legal advice and help to solve your family law issues is not a quick process, but it’s worth the wait. As you read in this article, there are plenty of ways to receive family law advice, and you should be able to benefit from at least one of them in most cases. 

Hopefully, now you know what options you have to receive legal advice and help for solving your family law issues. Remember, most family law issues have to be solved as quickly as possible because it will save you from potential stress and other dangers.

At Austin Kemp, we have offices throughout the UK, including London solicitors, Manchester solicitors, Leeds solicitors, Huddersfield solicitors and more. Get in touch with our family law solicitors today to see how we can help you and your family. 

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28th February 2022

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