Low-income parents continue to be the major victims of legal aid cuts to family
law services, following the
release of new quarterly figures by the Ministry of Justice
In its quarterly release of court statistics, the Ministry of
Justice (MoJ) revealed that the number cases featuring ex-partners going to
court over child arrangements or finances fell to 9,291 between April and June
2014. This is a drop of 40% compared to the same period in 2013.
fewer parents going to court might seem a cause for celebration, the major drop
in litigation is a direct consequence of public funding being removed from legal
aid family solicitors and barristers in April 2013.
The Law Society and
groups representing family lawyers have previously warned this is a worrying
precedent as parents could take the law into their own hands over child
arrangements or be agreeing lopsided kitchen table deals over finances where one
partner risks being sold short.
Moreover, the drop in court cases is not
being mirrored by a rise in the number of people attending family mediation.
Analysis of Legal Aid Agency data - also published today - by
, a group that combines fixed fee legal advice with family mediation,
showed that the 1,778 publicly funded mediations that got underway between April
and June this year represented a fall over 50%, compared to the same period in
2012 when legal aid was still in place for referring solicitors.
, trained mediator and founder of Lawyer-Supported Mediation, said:
'Low-income families are falling off the radar in their droves. It is absolutely
wrong for Ministers at the MoJ to assume these parents are happily sorting out
matters for themselves. Family law services have always been out of reach for
the many and cuts to legal aid are taking this to a new level.
MoJ wants to divert people from the courts to mediation, they urgently need to
incentive advising legal aid lawyers to support the process. This is an
astonishing failure of policy given not one lawyer was paid by the MoJ to
provide freely available legal advice in parallel to mediation.'
For further details and to download the report click here