In response to the judgment in our judicial review the Ministry of Justice has committed to undertaking a review of the regulations for family law legal aid and the impact of the domestic violence evidence. We are working closely with the Ministry of Justice to inform this review. Read Legal Aid Minister, Shailesh Vara’s statement of 21 April here.
In the meantime the Government has introduced interim regulations to deal with the two areas of concern highlighted by Lord Justice Longmore in his judgment of 18 February. The interim regulations can be found here.
Time limit on evidence of domestic violence
The interim regulations set a new, extended time limit on the forms of evidence of domestic violence from two years to five years. Most of the forms of evidence of domestic violence set out in the regulations will be considered by the LAA so long as the form of evidence is no more than five years old.
Evidence of financial abuse
From 25 April 2016 the Legal Aid Agency has discretion to consider forms of evidence of financial abuse not currently set out in the list of evidence. The guidance issued to LAA caseworkers can be found here (from paragraph 2.75). There is an evidence checklist which includes forms of evidence including bank statements, communications with the perpetrator (texts or emails), a letter from a domestic violence support service or a narrative statement from the survivor. In order to demonstrate financial abuse you should submit as much evidence as you can.
We will continue to update on further developments.
If you have any questions about your eligibility for family law legal aid, call our advice line.
If you have any evidence or experiences of the domestic violence evidence requirements which would inform the Ministry of Justice’s review please contact Emma or Mandip on 020 7251 6575.