Help with legal fees when you separate
SEPARATING can be complicated, so you might need legal help. For example, if you and your ex-partner can’t agree on who will stay in the family home, or where your children will live.
You might be able to get help with legal costs depending on your income, if you have any savings and investments and how serious your case is.
IF YOUR PARTNER MAKES YOU FEEL ANXIOUS OR THREATENED, YOU SHOULD GET HELP.
You can call Refuge or Women’s Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time.
Men’s Advice Line is a charity that helps men suffering domestic abuse. You can call their helpline on 0808 801 0327 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
If you’re unsure about what to do next, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.
You might be able to get some or all of your legal costs paid by the Government. This is known as ‘legal aid’ and you should get it if:
You’re using it to pay for mediation
Have experienced domestic abuse in the last five years You’re at risk of homelessness – for example, if your expartner is trying to throw you out of your home
To get legal aid, your legal adviser will need a legal aid contract. You can find a solicitor or mediator with a legal aid contract on GOV.UK.
Your legal adviser will check if you can get legal aid and apply for you.
You’ll need to pay some legal aid back if you keep or gain any money or property at the end of your court case.
If you have any questions, speak to your legal adviser. You can also get help from your local Citizens Advice.
If you need to go to court quickly to keep you or your children safe, you can ask your solicitor to apply for ‘emergency legal representation’. It pays your solicitor and court fees if you need a fast decision on money, property or children.
If you get this, you should also ask your solicitor to apply for legal aid for any future costs or hearings.
If you can’t, you might be able to get other help to pay for legal advice or court representation: Free or low cost advice from a solicitor in a law centre
Up to half an hour free from a solicitor
Free advice from a solicitor, although this is rare for separation cases
Free advice from a volunteer barrister - find out more on the Bar Pro Bono Unit website
Some solicitors offer more than 30 minutes of free advice, although this is rare for separation cases. Ask your local Citizens Advice if they know of local solicitors who do this.
You should research different solicitors before deciding which one. Ask them how much they charge and how long they think the process will take.
Don’t automatically go for the cheapest or the closest. It’s important you feel you’ll have a good relationship with them.
If your separation is complicated a solicitor might pass your case onto a barrister. You can go directly to a barrister through the public access scheme.
If you need to go to court, you’ll need to be referred to a barrister by:
Your local Citizens Advice A law centre
A legal advice centre
To get help from a volunteer barrister you need to show you:
Can’t afford a barrister – they normally cost at least
£150 an hour
Can’t get legal aid
You’ll need to apply at least three weeks before your next court date.
It’s possible to represent yourself in court. It’s best to get legal advice, so speak to your local Citizens Advice to see what your costs might be and your options for paying them. If you want to represent yourself, you can get advice from Advicenow.
Check if you can get help with your court fees on GOV.UK. To apply, fill in the form online then send to the court dealing with your case. You can also use it to get a refund for court fees paid in the last three months.
You don’t need to fill in any of your partner’s details if you’re separating from them – tick the box saying you’re single.
You can get help, information and advice from your local Citizens Advice or visit www. citizensadvicewokingham. org.uk or contact Citizens Advice Wokingham at
Second Floor, Waterford House, Erfstadt Court, Wokingham RG40 2YF. Tel: 0300 330 1189. email: pub[email protected] citizensadvicewokingham. org.uk