Legal Aid

Everyone deserves to receive high quality legal advice, regardless of personal circumstances. Legal Aid is a type of funding that can pay for some or all of the costs of your legal advice if you fit certain eligibility criteria, for example, if you cannot afford to pay your own legal costs.

We can offer Legal Aid services to eligible family law clients, criminal defence clients and immigration clients.

Legal Aid has been increasingly restricted over the years so to be eligible you usually have to show that your case is serious and that you cannot afford to pay your legal fees. ‘Seriousness’ includes if you or your children are at risk of domestic violence or you have been accused of a very serious crime.

Advising individuals and families throughout Kent and beyond

To check whether you are eligible for Legal Aid, give our solicitors a call or fill in our online enquiry form. We have branches in Maidstone, Gravesend, Tonbridge, Chatham and Tenterden where we can meet you to provide advice. We can also offer phone or video meetings if you are unable to visit us. In exceptional circumstances, we also offer home visits.

What is Legal Aid?

You may be able to get Legal Aid to pay for some or all of your legal costs if you have a serious problem and you cannot afford your own fees. There are two types of Legal Aid: civil and criminal. At Hatten Wyatt, we offer both types and we can help you check whether you are eligible.

Depending on the exact circumstances of your case, your Legal Aid could cover:

  • Advice about your rights and options
  • Assistance with legal documents and negotiations
  • Advice at the police station (if you are accused of a criminal offence)
  • Representation in court hearings

The scope of work a Legal Aid solicitor can provide is very precise and we will explain to you exactly what your Legal Aid covers and what it does not.

For some cases, you may also be expected to make contributions towards your legal costs out of your disposable income or pay back some costs if you receive a financial settlement. We will always explain when this might be the case because sometimes, paying your fees privately may work out cheaper.

Family Legal Aid

You may be able to get Family Legal Aid if:

  • Social services are involved in your family and have started care or supervision proceedings
  • You need family mediation to help resolve issues about children and finances upon relationship breakdown
  • You are applying for domestic violence protection against an abusive partner, former partner or family member (Non-Molestation Orders/Injunctions or Occupation Orders)
  • You need divorce or separation advice or children related advice and you and/or your children have experienced domestic violence or are at risk of domestic violence from your partner
  • You are applying for a Forced Marriage Protection Order
  • Your child has been taken or is about to be taken out of the UK without your consent
  • The case involves a child who has been made a party to the proceedings (Legal Aid can pay for their representation)

Means test

Usually, you will need to pass a means test to show that you cannot afford to pay your own legal fees. For this, you will be required to provide information about your income, savings, financial interests and any benefits you receive.

If you need help because social services have started care or supervision proceedings in respect of your child, you do not need to pass a means test.

If you are applying for a domestic violence related court order such as a Non-Molestation Order, you may also be able to get Legal Aid without taking a means test. However, you may be required to make contributions towards your fees.

Check if you are eligible for Family Legal Aid with the Government’s online calculator.

Evidence

You may need to provide evidence for some types of Legal Aid application, for example, if you need Legal Aid because you are at risk of domestic abuse. We can provide advice about gathering any necessary evidence and preparing your application so you have the best possible chance of achieving a positive outcome.

Criminal Legal Aid

If you are accused of a criminal offence, you may be able to get Legal Aid if you cannot afford your fees and you pass an ‘Interests of Justice’ test.

There may be some aspects of your case that will be free regardless of whether you are eligible for Legal Aid. For example, if you are arrested and taken to the police station, you are entitled to free legal advice while you are in custody.

Means test

The Criminal Legal Aid means test takes into account factors such as your income, living costs and family circumstances to assess whether you are unable to pay your legal costs. Some people may be able to skip the means test (this is called ‘passporting’).

Depending on your disposable income, you may be required to contribute towards your legal costs. If you are found not guilty at the end of the case, you can get your money back with interest.

Passporting

You automatically qualify for Criminal Legal Aid if you are on certain state benefits or are under 18 years old. People who are able to skip the means test must still pass the Interests of Justice test.

Interests of Justice test

As well as the means test, you must also pass the Interests of Justice Test (IoJ). This test assesses the merits of your case and whether you should receive Legal Aid on their basis. For example, if it is likely you will lose your liberty, livelihood or you will suffer serious damage to your reputation.

Immigration Legal Aid

Legal Aid for immigration cases is extremely narrow but may be available in cases such as:

  • Challenging immigration detention, including bail, conditional release and temporary admission or release
  • Matters involving domestic violence
  • Matters involving trafficking, forced labour or slavery
  • Asylum cases
  • Cases involving children who have been separated from their parents or guardians

Please get in touch for more information about whether it is possible to get Legal Aid for your immigration matter or for information about our immigration pricing.

Contact our expert Legal Aid solicitors for advice

To check whether you are eligible for Legal Aid, give our solicitors a call or fill in our online enquiry form. We have branches in Maidstone, Gravesend, Tonbridge, Chatham and Tenterden where we can meet you to provide advice. We can also offer phone or video meetings if you are unable to visit us. In exceptional circumstances, we also offer home visits.

 

For further information please call to speak to one of our experts on 01474 351199