Changes to the Family Court Forms due to the changes made to the eligibility criteria for legal aid: effective 8 January 2018

09 / 01 / 2018

Previously (on 29 December 2017), I wrote about the forthcoming changes to the eligibility requirements for individuals to obtain legal aid (public funding) in relation to family law matters and had explained that the number of applications being made to the Family Court in relation to domestic violence had increased (read the article here).

I explained that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act came into force in 2013 and one of the effects that it had was to significantly reduce the amount of people eligible for legal aid services from a solicitor in relation to family matters, although such instance where legal aid is sometimes still available is where there has been domestic violence. However, further to that Act an individual was only eligible for legal aid if they met specific requirements/eligibility criteria, that being that either that they have experienced domestic violence before or are at significant risk from the same. In addition, individuals were required to provide specific types of documentary evidence in support and further, the domestic violence must have occurred within the previous 5 years. If an individual did not meet that criteria then they would not be eligible for legal aid.

Since the introduction of the Act there had consequently been much discussion regarding the difficulties that are caused to those that have experienced domestic violence but are unable to meet the strict eligibility requirements as they, as demonstrated by the statistics referred to in my previous blog referred to above, have had to represent themselves in Court.

The Government has however “listened to victims’ groups and carefully reviewed the criteria for legal aid victims of domestic abuse in family cases”  and have made changes. In light of this, the 5 year restriction has been removed and the types of evidence that is accepted has been expanded.

The changes are effective as from 8 January 2018.

Further to the above, amendments have been made to some of the family law Court forms, specifically:

  • Form FM1 (Family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM));
  • Form C100 (Application under s 8 of the Children Act 1989 for a child arrangements, prohibited steps, specific issue order or to vary or discharge or ask permission to make a s 8 order);
  • Form A (Notice of [intention to proceed with] an application for a financial order);
  • Form A1 (Notice of [intention to proceed with] an application for a financial remedy (other than a financial order)); and
  • Form B (Notice of an application to consider the financial position of the Respondent after the divorce/dissolution).

The Courts will be accepting the old forms up to and including 12 January 2018 but will return applications made on the old forms after that date and they will be sent back to the Applicant to re-complete the application on the new forms (as amended).

It is therefore imperative that post 12 January 2018 the new forms are used.