Family law practitioners have reiterated concerns that vulnerable people will be left without legal advice and support during divorce after cuts to legal aid came into force on 1st April.
Resolution, the country’s largest association of family law practitioners, has repeatedly warned of the devastating effects of the legal aid cuts, which will result in 200,000 people a year being denied access to justice.
Legal aid will remain available to support many victims of domestic violence and a further limited number of people for mediation, which Resolution supports as a non-court based approach to resolving family disputes that does not involve court.
However, mediation is not a one-size-fits-all solution: for it to be successful, both parties need to agree to engage. Where one party is not willing, there is no support available. As a result, many people will be forced to represent themselves, sometimes in court (known as ‘litigants in person’), acting without legal advice.
Resolution’s Chair, Liz Edwards, said: “Our members know from experience that most clients do not know what kind of financial settlement they are entitled to or have to provide.
“This is essentially a false economy, as the weaker partner is left with an inadequate settlement and is pushed into reliance on benefits, shifting the costs to other areas of public spending. This will ultimately place a greater burden on the public purse.
“These cuts fail families and run counter to the government’s stated aim of putting children and families at the heart of policy. The effects will be particularly damaging for the children in divorce cases, particularly those from poor backgrounds".