Legal aid is financial support to pay for legal fees when someone is unable to afford a solicitor themselves. The fund is administered by the Legal Aid Agency. In 2012, Parliament passed the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (‘LASPO’). This Act significantly reduced the availability of legal aid. For some areas of law it is simply no longer possible to get legal aid. For other areas of law, LASPO restricted eligibility for legal aid.

For family law legal aid, LASPO introduced a system of eligibility which varies depending on the type of family law case involved. There are some areas of family law where legal aid is still universally available, such as care proceedings. However, for the most common areas of family law, such as divorce and child contact disputes, LASPO introduced a requirement that only those who are or have suffered or are at risk of suffering domestic abuse would be able to access legal aid.

The Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 which came into force on 1st April 2013 set out a list of the evidence that the Legal Aid Agency would accept to show that someone was a survivor of domestic abuse. This list was very restrictive.

Initially, evidence had to be dated within the last 2 years and could only be provided by a small number of professionals. Rights of Women brought a successful judicial review of the evidence criteria for domestic abuse in 2016. The Government made some changes initially such as extending the time limit to 5 years but the most sweeping changes came into force on 8th January 2018. The list of evidence accepted by the Legal Aid Agency has been expanded significantly. Some of the key changes are:

  • there is no time limit on evidence of domestic abuse;
  • it is possible to provide evidence that someone is at risk of domestic abuse by providing evidence that the perpetrator has been abusive to someone else;
  • domestic violence support organisations are able to provide evidence that someone is or has been the victim of domestic abuse or is at risk of being a victim of domestic abuse;

The purpose of this briefing is to improve support to survivors by supporting practitioners in the following ways:

  • providing information for practitioners to understand when a survivor may be eligible for legal aid in family cases
  • providing guidance on how to support survivors to obtain evidence
  • understanding what the evidence (that can be provided directly by professionals / practitioners) needs to cover and how to present it


This briefing is created by Rights of Women.

It is produced by funding from London Councils for the Ascent Support Services to Organisations project. 

About Ascent

Ascent is a partnership project undertaken by the London Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Consortium, delivering a range of services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, under six themes, funded by London Councils. The second tier support project aims to address the long term sustainability needs of organisations providing services to those affected by sexual and domestic violence. The project seeks to improve the quality of such services across London by providing a range of training and support. 

Women’s Resource Centre is the lead partner in the Support Services Strand where we work together with 5 partner organisations:

Rights of Women


Women and Girls Network


Find out more about the Ascent project here.

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