Legal aid for mediation: am I eligible?
Legal aid is funding from the government that helps cover the costs of family mediation. This funding is available for family mediation that helps families sort out disputes involving:
- Finance and property - such as reaching agreements about the family home, savings, debts, pension and other financial support.
- Child arrangements - whether that’s a single issue or a situation where parents need to work out arrangements that cover every aspect of their and their children’s changed lives.
- Any other issue that arises out of a family relationship and might otherwise end up in court.
Eligibility for legal aid depends on a number of factors, including income, employment status, owned capital, and more. Determining whether you are eligible can be confusing, and the guidance isn’t always clear.
This guide will help you understand more about what is generally considered when deciding whether an individual is eligible for legal aid, and more about the application process.
At Mediation First, we help you make sense of your eligibility for legal aid, with a free, no obligation legal aid assessment service. Simply get in touch with us so that we can arrange for you to be assessed by our legal aid assessment team.
For more information on eligibility for legal aid, we cover some of the most commonly asked questions below.
If you are eligible for legal aid, then this covers the costs of mediation. The total amount is not limited to a specific sum. It will cover the mediator’s fees for the sessions themselves and also for the cost of the mediator preparing various documents. For example, a Parenting Plan or Outcome Statement in child mediation, and the Financial Statement and Memorandum of Understanding documents in financial and property mediation.
The initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is also free for those who are eligible.
If you are not eligible for legal aid, but the other person is, then your separate MIAM meetings will be free to you together with your share of the cost of the first joint session.
You would only then have to fund the second and any subsequent mediation session and your share of the cost of the documents mentioned above. For the time being, the government is also offering a £500 voucher toward the cost of mediation sessions. This is available for cases that involve child arrangements, and can help further reduce the potential cost of mediation, even if you’re not eligible for legal aid.
Whether you get legal aid funded mediation will depend on your financial eligibility, which we cover in more detail in the following sections.
When is legal aid available?
To be eligible for legal aid, you have to pass both a capital “test” and an income “test”. Being eligible for legal aid will depend on a number of factors. These include:
- Any property that you own either yourself or jointly with someone
- Any savings, investments or valuable items you have
- Your total income, whether it’s salary, wages, dividends, benefits, maintenance
- Your housing costs
- Any benefits you receive, for example Universal Credit
- The number of dependent children who live with you
- Any childcare costs or maintenance you’re paying
The regulations around legal aid eligibility are very complicated, which is why Mediation First offers a free, no obligation assessment. If you’re on a low income or on benefits, it’s worth checking to see if you might be eligible. Our team will help you understand whether you are eligible before any actual mediation is arranged - get in touch with us to find out more.
Evidence you’ll need to apply for legal aid assisted mediation
In order to apply for legal aid assisted mediation, you’ll need to present certain recent evidence relating to your finances. Some of the most common examples of evidence you’ll need include:
- Universal Credit statements
- Bank statements
- Self-employed business accounts and tax return
When you contact us you will be sent a link to an easy to complete online form so that we can begin your application for legal aid. Depending on your answers we will then ask you for evidence of your income. For example, if you are in receipt of Universal Credit, we will ask you to send in a screenshot of your latest payment confirmation. If you are employed, we will need to see your latest payslips and bank statements..
If you request a free legal aid assessment meeting with us, you will be asked to forward this information via email in advance of the meeting.
How to claim legal aid
Once your completed online form is received, the legal aid assessor can then begin the assessment process to apply for legal aid on your behalf. All you need to do is provide them with the necessary documentation to support your claim.
Our legal aid assessors can normally confirm very quickly whether you will be eligible for legal aid. If you are, the assessor will complete a legal aid assessment form and ask you to check and confirm that it is accurate. Once you have done this and return the signed form, your share of the cost of mediation will be covered by government funding. If you successfully qualify for legal aid, costs will be paid directly to the mediation service to cover your sessions.
Will I have to pay my Legal Aid back at any point?
No, you will not have to pay back any Legal Aid, providing that you attend mediation. This also means that you won’t have to pay anything back out of any financial settlement that you get, regardless of how much money you receive following a mediated agreement.
What happens if I’m not eligible for legal aid?
If you are not eligible for legal aid, you may still get your MIAM and first joint session paid for by the government if the other person is eligible.
If that is not the case, then you would have to pay for your MIAM and the mediation work undertaken by your mediator. But remember, sorting out your dispute using a collaborative approach with the help of a mediator will be many times less expensive than each party getting solicitors to fight their corner, and far, far cheaper than funding a court application.
To find out more about funding mediation if you aren’t eligible for legal aid, our guide covering the costs of mediation might help.
How mediation can help you
If you or the other party are unsure whether mediation could be helpful for you, speaking to a mediator will help you understand more about your options, and whether or not mediation may be applicable to your situation.
Mediation can help you resolve issues relating to family matters, divorce and separation, and can also be used to help reach an agreement on workplace, civil and commercial matters.
Family mediation is commonly used to help divorcing parties agree on financial agreements, parenting plans, property agreements, grandparents’ rights, and many other areas.
Move forward with mediation. Start by getting in touch with us at:
Tel: 0330 320 7600
Or, via our online contact form.