Thank you to Divorce Coach Caron Kipping for this extremely useful article.
Here are 10 ways to get evidence of domestic abuse for Legal Aid applications.
Concerns about GP’s and the cost of evidence
During discussions about the new DA Bill, concerns have been raised about GP’s charging fees for letters requested by patients experiencing domestic abuse.
Against the advice of the British Medical Association, GP’s are charging between £50 – £300 for a letter. When applying for Legal Aid due to domestic abuse, the victim has to provide proof. Since 2013 applicants for Legal Aid have had to provide some form of evidence that they or their children have experienced domestic abuse, and so many go to their GP for help. GPs aren’t paid for this by the NHS, and so can choose to charge patients. There are some which don’t charge at all, but effectively GP practices can choose their own rates of charging.
Applicants for civil legal aid are means-tested and the limit for disposable income is currently around £733/month. This means many people applying for Legal Aid are receiving Benefits and are often struggling financially as a result of economic abuse. To charge further fees to help them evidence the abuse just doesn’t seem morally right to me and if the form isn’t completed correctly or the evidence is insufficient the application can be rejected, leaving the victim without the ability to receive legal representation.
To confirm your eligibility for Legal Aid click here: https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid
You can download a template letter here which will reduce the time spent by the GP and may encourage them to offer their service for free: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/give-evidence-of-injuries-consistent-with-domestic-violence
It will also ensure that all the correct information is detailed, ensuring it meets the Legal Aid requirements.
Other ways to obtain evidence for Legal Aid
There are other ways you can support your application. You need to provide 1 piece of written evidence of domestic violence to get legal aid in a divorce or separation.
You can also ask for evidence from:
- Courts – evidence of Court Orders already awarded or previous applications, they may charge you a £5 copying fee. You can download template letters here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/get-a-copy-of-a-domestic-violence-conviction
- Police- request a report and provide URN numbers to confirm incidents of domestic abuse
- MARAC – a multi-agency risk assessment conference. If your case has been assessed as high risk of harm and discussed at one of these multiagency meetings, ask your domestic abuse worker to help you get this supporting letter
- Social services – if your case has been open to them within the past 2 years as a result of concerns around domestic abuse or child abuse
- Refuge manager – if you stayed in a refuge for more than 24 hours at any time over the past year or if you have been refused space in a refuge because it is full
- Domestic abuse support service – they can provide a supporting letter to confirm support due to domestic abuse
- Bank, (eg, credit card accounts, loan documents and statements) to evidence your income
- Employer, or education or training provider
- Provider of any benefits you’ve received
You can get templates for all of the above letter requests from the Government website.
Reach out to your local domestic abuse organisation who can support you through the whole process and can help you stay safe – they are experts, their support is confidential and they are free of charge!