Legal Aid for family mediation

Legal Aid is still available for family mediation for people on a low income or receiving benefits - even after legislative changes in 2013 which led to significant alterations to the Legal Aid scheme.

This means your fees to the local mediation provider will be paid for you, and you will be able to access free legal advice whilst you are in mediation. If only one of you is eligible for Legal Aid, the fees for the first information session (MIAM) for the other person will be paid by Legal Aid.

All National Family Mediation (NFM) mediators will assess your eligibility for Legal Aid if you request it at your first meeting. See our section Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

You can be considered for Legal Aid if your before-tax income from all sources meets current criteria. Your capital and savings, including the value of your home, will also be taken into account. All the financial information you give to the mediator has to be supported by up to date proof.

When you come to a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM), which will be your initial session with a mediators, it is essential that you bring with you:

  • Your national insurance number
  • An estimate of the value of all your capital assets, including the value of your home and any other properties
  • A bank statement covering the four week period before the meeting with the mediator PLUS:
  • If you are employed, proof of your income via payslips covering the four week period before the meeting
  • If you are self employed, your most recent accounts or tax return
  • If you in receipt of benefits or tax credits, a current letter (dated within the last six months) confirming your entitlement

If you decide to make an application to court on a family matter concerning children or finances, Legal Aid will only be available if you can demonstrate:

  • You have been a victim of or at risk or domestic violence
  • The child who is the subject of the order is at risk of abuse from someone other than you

In either case, allegations alone are insufficient and you have to provide evidence that you meet the criteria. You can find a list of the evidence accepted for domestic violence and when a child is at risk of abuse on the Ministry of Justice website.

Restricting the situations where Legal Aid is available for court applications is in keeping with the change in government thinking that, where it is safe and appropriate, family mediation is the preferred option for resolving family disputes. See our section About Family Mediation for more information.

To assess your capital, your mediator will apply standard disregards for mortgage and equity, and if the remaining capital meets current criteria you will eligible. If your capital assets are the subject matter of the dispute you will be discussing in mediation, a further disregard can be allowed.

To assess your income, your mediator will take into account income tax and NI payments, mortgage or rent, standard allowances for dependents living with you, child care and maintenance payments. If the amount remaining meets current criteria, you will be eligible.

To qualify for Legal Aid, you must be eligible on both capital and income grounds. Once you have attended at least one mediation session, your mediator can sign a form which entitles you to free legal advice.

It may not be possible to confirm at your first meeting whether or not you are eligible for Legal Aid, particularly if further up to date proof is needed. Your mediator may have to charge you initially then reimburse you once your eligibility has been proved.

Check if you might be eligible for legal aid under current crtieria with the Legal Aid Checker.  You’ll only get guidance on whether or not you can get legal aid - you won’t get a final decision. And remember if you want more information you can call us on 0300 4000 636.

NFM is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.

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