The withdrawal of legal aid for family matters from 1 April 2013 is hardly likely to cause shock waves outside legal circles.

In our current age of austerity when we are constantly being given the impression by economists that the country is on the edge of bankruptcy, any measure that reduces strain on the public purse is in keeping with our economic atmosphere.

However, the withdrawal of legal aid for all but the most serious of family matters (these being injunctions for domestic violence or childcare proceedings), will result in a significant disadvantage to those who cannot afford to meet the legal costs of divorce in its broadest sense. By this we mean the legal dissolution of a marriage and an application for a final court order determining the division of matrimonial assets (referred to within legal circles as an application for financial remedies). It is the application for financial remedies that can be prohibitively expensive.

The group of persons who will most obviously be disadvantaged by the withdrawal of legal aid are spouses who have no independent income of their own, that is the spouse who has elected to forgo a career in order to care for children and be a homemaker. Such people are usually, though not always, women. If the financially stronger spouse refuses to be fair in circumstances of divorce and marital breakdown, then lack of access to the courts is a serious problem for the other person.

Regrettably, there is no easy solution to this problem. Where there is a matrimonial property, some financial institutions will make loans for legal costs in return for a charge on the property as security for their loan until the loan is repaid.

We at Hubbard Pegman and Whitney are sympathetic to the financial dilemmas that clients may face and are always open to discussing fixed fee arrangements for work that is agreed in advance of a client entering into a contract with us.

Contact our family solicitor Bik Wong on 020 8735 9770


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