Cases where there has been domestic abuse
Children, financial matters and applications for injunctions where the applicant is, or has been, the victim of domestic violence. These involve cases where one party has hurt, abused or threatened the divorce applicant or the applicant’s child, and even where the abuse does not form a relevant part of the case before the courts. If there has been abuse then you may be entitled to Legal Aid.
Local authority child protection matters
Child abduction cases
Anyone threatened or forced to marry against their will can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
That was the first mistake in my case and my legal team did nothing. At no point was I ever advised that if I didn’t fight the 50:50 I would lose money for my children. (Remember.. my ex is a millionaire and has not given me a penny towards maintenance etc – his assets are all abroad – he is also a narcissist – diagnosed!).
So, that was that – he had 50:50 shared care – not because he wanted the children – but it was good for his fight against me and his financials as in the court we now had the same “need”. Moving to the financials we went to an FDR where I said I would accept £40k and he turned me down. I just wanted it over and I wanted him to pay the debts he had put onto my cards as a means of control “you can’t leave me! I have put £40k on your credit cards”. We then went to a Final Hearing. I was awarded a decent sum but the DDJ didn’t sum up properly and my ex appealed. Move on another year and he got his appeal and we were going to another Final Hearing. Just before this second final hearing, LA stopped as I had a part-time job. Everyone was saying that I needed to stay on Job Seekers until it was all over, but I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t pretend to not be able to get a job. That felt wrong. My ex instructed even more powerful lawyers and with no support and no money to continue, I walked away with nothing £0. What I am left with is 50% of two children, no home, a basic income, no pension, no maintenance and no way of having fun with my children such as holidays etc.
The system has failed me. I discovered at the last case that my Form A had been incorrectly completed by my LA Solicitor. She hadn’t ticked the box saying that I wanted his assets to be part of the divorce pot. I had even gone through one Final Hearing with that form, but a new Judge for the second hearing said that the form was unacceptable. With no legal aid and costs mounting up with things such as the wrongly completed Form A, I had to jump ship with nothing. I had no means to continue.
To be fair to the Barrister for the financials case, she was great, but must have also felt out of her depth as the case involved foreign assets (European). There was no LA funding to instruct an expert from the other country, so my ex could just make up whatever he wanted, we had no money to challenge what he was saying. How could my Barrister fight the huge fire of my case armed only with a water pistol from LA? If LA are going to fund cases, shouldn’t they be funded correctly? Just to prove my point. My ex paid out £150k in legal fees and my LA bill was just over £15k. The case was not run as it should. If LA had funded properly I would probably be £500k better off (at least) and they would have had their money back. As it happens… LA will not receive anything because they jumped off the ship before I did, they got so far and then abandoned me at the last post.. they actually accused me of not telling them that I had taken part time work! I was earning less than I was getting in benefits. No longer being on a benefit means abandonment. It seems that you are not supposed to pick yourself up and brush yourself down!
My advice is that LA is a waste of time and energy and you will be left feeling frustrated as you know you can do more to win. You feel as though you are represented, but you are actually not. It’s a half-hearted attempt by the LA solicitor. I am not even sure if my solicitor was really involved. The incorrect form filling was apparently done by the secretary. I feel let down and left with nothing. I could not have been a Litigant in Person with my case as it was far to complex, but maybe that is a better way to go if you are running a UK case?
There is also a scheme called ‘Public Access’ where you can appoint a Barrister directly to represent you, without having to use a solicitor. Many barristers who do public access work offer reduced fee schemes for those on low incomes. This scheme has the further advantage of permitting the client to call on legal help only as and when this is required, thus enabling the client to keep a very close eye on the purse – but again you need money! If you have absolutely nothing. What do you do?
It is also possible for people to represent themselves in Court as a “litigant in person”, but whilst this might appear to be a way to save money, you should be careful as there are numerous pitfalls to catch out the uninitiated . Knowledge of what evidence and how to obtain this, as well as a working knowledge of the relevant laws and the courts’ interpretation of these is key. There are some charities such as the Personal Support Unit who provide practical and emotional support to people who are representing themselves in court, although they do not offer legal advice.
My thought is that unless you have money you are not going to come out well in divorce if you ex has lots of money which he or she can hide in one way or another. My exes case was funded by his rich Mother and Sister so that no money went through his hands. Does he feel good leaving me destitute with nothing? Does he feel that it is right to leave the Mother of his children in the position of having nothing? Probably, but then he is a psycho. There is no point in giving LA help unless the case is going to be run properly. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.