A lot of people and advice services are unaware that legal aid is still available for family mediation. For those on a low income that do not have the resources to instruct solicitors, this is an invaluable opportunity to access free assistance in dealing with disputes concerning children and finances!
As most people are now aware, from 2013 legal aid via family law solicitors has only been available for those on a low income who also have evidence of domestic abuse. However, you do not need evidence of domestic abuse to qualify for legal aid for family mediation.
Eligibility for legal aid for family mediation is assessed on:
The capital that a person has (i.e. property, savings, items of high value); and
The income that a person has.
In order to qualify for legal aid a person must have less than £8,000 in capital. However, the rules in relation to property are complex - the fact that you own a property that has equity in it may not stop you from being eligible for legal aid. For further information on how capital is assessed see our more detailed guidance.
If you receive certain income based benefits (see below) you will automatically qualify for legal aid for family mediation on the income test. You will need to bring documentary evidence with you to your appointment confirming receipt of the benefit. The evidence that is required is either a letter from benefits agency that is less than 6 months old, a recent bank statement confirming receipt of income support or universal credit (a bank statement will not be sufficient for JSA or ESA as it will not show whether it is income based/ related), a print-out from your online Universal Credit account. The income based benefits are currently:
Income based Jobseekers Allowance
Income related Employment and Support Allowance
Even if you do not receive any of the above income based benefits, you may still be eligible for legal aid for family mediation. We will need to take a more detailed look at your income (and that of any partner with whom you are cohabiting) and outgoings for the last calendar month and will usually require that you bring paper copies (we will not be able to assess you by reference to information contained on your mobile phone) of the following documents, for you and any new partner with whom you are cohabiting, with you to the MIAM:
Paper copies of bank statements for the calendar month exactly preceding the date of your appointment*
Wage slips for the calendar month exactly preceding the date of your appointment.
A letter from the relevant benefits agency confirming receipt of benefits (typically tax credits, contributions based JSA or ESA).
* e.g. if you are attending on 1 January 2018 we will ask for bank statements covering the period 1 December 2017 to 1 January 2018 inclusive for all accounts in your name. If you don't do internet banking you will need to visit your bank on the day to get statements/ transaction reports for the whole of this period.
For further information on how income is assessed see our more detailed guidance.
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