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Changes to legal aid eligibility process introduced for divorce and child contact disputes

Legal Aid: Refocusing on Priority Cases consultation to be implemented

The Ministry of Justice has announced changes which it says will tighten the rules for civil legal aid so that fraudsters are uncovered at an early stage, and funding is better targeted. The changes were consulted on from July to October last year in Legal Aid: Refocusing on Priority Cases.

The changes will mean that before legal aid is granted in a divorce or child contact dispute, the other side will be given an opportunity to provide evidence if the applicant is financially ineligible for legal aid. Currently the onus is on people to contact the Legal Services Commission (LSC) if they have evidence.

In future the LSC will contact opponents and check applicants' eligibility before granting legal aid. This requirement will not be applied to domestic violence cases, or other emergency applications.

The changes will also restrict access to domestic civil legal aid for non-residents, and restructure the LSC's committee dealing with cases of wider public interest.

The introduction of all the new conditions is expected to deliver savings to the legal aid budget of approximately £6 million per year.

Details can be found here.