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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

“Legal aid” and public service


When I trained in law and qualified in the early 1980s, I was determined to help people, especially those who--to my mind--needed the most help often those with the least funds to be able to afford that help. Legal aid (i.e. government help) stepped in.

It was of special use, I always felt, when say a woman had never worked after marriage and had married a business man who had done well. He ran the finances about which she knew nothing. She relied upon him and they both expected "his" pension to be "their" pension on their retirement. She would, typically, speak to me having been bullied and almost believing he had nothing and that she would have to get out of the house and was entitled to next to nothing. It wasn't true, of course. But she had no money in her name to pay fees.

It wasn't long, though, before successive governments made legal aid so hard to be fully entitled to that not many now are. Do bear in mind that legal aid to get a divorce is near impossible. Obtaining legal aid to pursue a divorce settlement is not so tricky. But beware that it is really a loan these days and has to be paid back out of any money awarded. (It is actually much more complex than this, but this is a useful outline).

So, all in all, legal aid is not much use these days in divorce cases for the majority. How can family lawyers help?

Most specialist family solicitors no longer offer legal aid. We don't. But these are things to seek from your family firm of solicitors which may help you with costs:

1. Agreeing a fixed fee. These are examples of divorce fixed fees.

2. Agreeing that you be billed monthly, so you keep close control of legal fees

3. Insisting (it should be readily given) that you receive written confirmation of the likely cost of divorce and a regular confirmation of the total costs as against that estimate.

4. Asking family and friends for help---most will readily assist

5. Asking your bank. They will often lend against your family lawyer agreeing to pay back from any financial settlement

6. Asking your lawyer if you can pay using your credit card--a few firms accept these (of course, we do!). You can then pay that back monthly.

7. Use a specialist family lawyer. They can sometimes be more per hour but they will normally take much less time than a lawyer who tries to do all types of law.

Andrew Woolley
Specialist family lawyer

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