The legal aid system in England and Wales has been under increasing pressure in recent years, leaving many people unsure of what kind of family mediation cases can get legal funding.

In principle it depends on whether or not your case is truly one of ‘family mediation’, and most situations that arise from a disagreement within a family are still covered.

The availability of legal aid for family mediation is means-tested, so you will need to be able to demonstrate that you cannot cover the cost of your case yourself, and there are specific rules for when only one party involved meets those criteria.

If you’re not sure, ask your mediator, who can help you to determine if you meet the criteria for family mediation legal aid and may be able to complete the forms on your behalf.

When is legal aid available for family mediation?

It’s mandatory to at least consider mediation before going to court for family disputes like divorce, and attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is the way to prove you have done so.

There are exemptions in extreme cases, such as if you have been a victim of domestic abuse, so again ask your mediator if you are not sure about this.

In general though family mediation legal aid may be available for the following kinds of disputes:

  •         Child maintenance
  •         Contact arrangements
  •         Finance (including debts, pensions and savings)
  •         Property (especially co-owned such as the family home)
  •         Residence and parental responsibility

The cost of mediation must be justified – again your mediator can make this determination – and the mediation must relate specifically to legal issues that could otherwise be taken to court, and not more generally to communication or relationship issues.

It is not enough for mediation to be used to avoid the potential future risk of a legal dispute arising; to qualify for legal aid, there must be a legal dispute already apparent which would otherwise be taken to court.

As always, if you are in any doubt, we would urge you to contact Marcia Mediation for an independent opinion as to whether or not your case will qualify for legal aid, and any alternative arrangements that might be available if not.