Earlier this week, I attended a discussion group on the forthcoming changes in Legal Aid for Family Law work.
Many people are aware that significant changes are proposed as from next Spring, though few people know what it will mean, and it is something I have been asked about by many clients and potential clients.
At present, there is an awful lot about the proposals that remains unknown, and indeed much of primary material which sets out the new rules has not yet been finalised, but what we do know is that they will bring significant change.
The changes will start in March next year, and the new Legal Aid contracts for Family Law work are scheduled to take effect as from April. Eligibility criteria has been tightened and it is expected that far fewer people will qualify. Those that do will be expected to make higher levels of contributions towards their fees than has previously been the case.
There will also be cuts to what Family Law work is covered, and generally, the work which can be undertaken will be restricted to more complex cases, including some international matters and public law (care).It is expected that the changes will mean that many more people are forced to represent themselves in Family Law proceedings.
It is hoped that the changes encourage more people to attend Family Mediation, for which some funding will still remain. Most Family Solicitors will be keeping a careful eye on the changes, and looking at ways in which it will be possible to help people through the process of conducting a Family case despite restricted funding.
Cara Nuttall is a Senior Family Law Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.
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