Written by Hannah Porter

Associate Solicitor at The Family Law Company

Hannah specialises in all areas of family law, providing expertise in both financial matters and children act matters.

Legal Aid is still available for victims of domestic abuse (whether that abuse be physical, emotional or psychological) despite the social distancing restrictions in place.

If you feel as though you are in immediate danger for any reason call the police. Police guidance on social distancing specifies that you’re able to move to a friend’s home for a cooling-off period following an argument at your home provided the move is genuine and measured in days not hours. If you are in a dangerous situation at home and have a friend’s home you can move to you can without being penalised.

Legal Aid is based upon two criteria; whether or not a person is able to evidence that they’re a victim of domestic abuse (referred to as ‘Gateway Evidence’); and their financial position.

Please don’t feel there is no help available. Solicitors and Legal Aid funding is available for you despite the social distancing measures.

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) are very specific about the type of wording they require in a letter evidencing that somebody is a victim of domestic abuse, and the wording changes depending upon whether you are providing your evidence from a medical professional, domestic abuse support service or another professional. Your solicitor will advise you on this evidence and help ensure the evidence you produce will be accepted by the LAA.

During this pandemic, it’s not easy to go to see a doctor to obtain medical evidence but just because you can’t see a medical professional or domestic abuse support worker doesn’t mean that they cannot assess you over the phone or via video conferencing. All the required documents can be uploaded digitally and an emailed letter in support of your status as a victim of domestic abuse with an electronic signature is now acceptable.

If you require Legal Aid to apply to the Court for a protective order such as non-molestation order or occupation order you will only need to provide evidence of your financial position.

For the LAA to assess your financial eligibility it needs proof of your income, capital assets (such as savings or property) and your housing situation. These documents can be provided to your lawyer by email, enabling them to submit an assessment for you without you going into a lawyer’s office.

You may be asked to provide some or all of the following documents (your lawyer will be able to give you specific advice about what is needed in your situation) :

  • Bank statements for every bank account you hold (including any joint accounts, saving accounts or bank accounts you have on behalf of your children) – these can be print screens of your online banking provided they clearly show you name and the details of the bank account.
  • If you own your house, an up to date valuation of your property (you can ask an estate agent to do a free drive-by or desk based valuation for you as this will enable them to comply with social distancing) and the most recent mortgage statement you have.
  • If you have a tenancy, your tenancy agreement and how much you pay by rent monthly or receive via housing benefit.
  • Evidence of any benefits you receive – again, you can send your lawyer an up to date screenshot of your online account for benefit entitlement, provided it shows clearly that you are the person entitled to these benefits.
  • If you work, your latest three wage slips

When the LAA assess the documents you have produced they will either advise you are eligible, ineligible or that you have to pay a monthly or one off contribution toward your legal costs. Your lawyer will advise you what the LAA have decided about your application and if a contribution towards cost is required, you’ll be able to choose whether or not to accept it.

Please don’t feel there is no help available. Solicitors and Legal Aid funding is available for you despite the social distancing measures.

 

 

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