The legal aid changes are due to come in to force in April 2013. The upshot of this is that a lot of litigants in divorce cases will have no legal representation unless they can afford to pay privately. That leaves such litigants in an unenviable position either to represent themselves in person before the family law court and without a divorce solicitor or attempt to find money to pay.
The Government is set to cut £350M from the legal aid fund which means that almost all family advice being removed. Only those cases that involve domestic abuse and child care will still qualify for legal aid. The natural concern is that in some divorce cases there could be a stark difference in wealth between divorcing parties. An unlevel playing field is therefore created and potentially to the advantage of the wealthier spouse.
Cases could also become more complicated or, in particular longer and more expensive for the paying party where you have one spouse legally represented by a divorce solicitor and the other unrepresented and who is therefore unfamiliar to the court rules and law.
Parties will have to become more sophisticated in looking how to fund legal cases, for example, by way of bank loans, credit cards, family and so on. There is a natural desire to save or avoid legal costs. A divorce solicitor should explain through the family law case the risks and benefits in proceeding and taking steps forward; and also the cost consequences of doing so. For the party, he or she should always attempt to keep the costs in proportion to what is at stake.
Commercially, it may be to a party’s advantage to secure legal representation from a specialist divorce solicitor and pay for that divorce advice following the legal aid changes if there is a benefit or potential benefit in going so particularly if there is a lot at stake in terms of the welfare of a child or in respect of the divorce finances. Again, proportionality is the key.
Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this and children matters including child maintenance.
We can also advise on Schedule1 Children Act 1989 applications.