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Legal Aid is available for mediation

Dec 21, 2021 | News

Independent mediators

Legal Aid is available for mediation

Costs can be a barrier for people who are finding it difficult to resolve their disputes. Court costs and solicitor fees can become very high, very quickly. Mediation, whilst cheaper, will still incur costs.

Direct Mediation Services are contracted with the Legal Aid Agency, which means that we can provide our services fully funded to those who qualify for Legal Aid. Our work is overseen by the Legal Aid Agency, who ensure that we offer our best services to you without the need to pay.

How do I qualify for Legal Aid?

Legal Aid is “means tested”, which means it looks at your income. There are two types of Legal Aid that you can apply for:

  • Based on receipt of a qualifying benefit; or
  • Based on low income.

If you are unsure, you can check if you qualify for Legal Aid here.

However, generally you will qualify for Legal Aid if you receive one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income support

Or if you have a low income you will need to show that you have disposable income of less than £733 per month.

You will need to provide evidence to support your application. If you are applying due to receiving a qualifying benefit, you will need to submit evidence of this. For Universal Credit, a screenshot of your most recent payment will be sufficient so long as it shows your name and address

See an example below.

If you receive another benefit, you should provide an award letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that shows your current award of benefit.

If you are applying based on low income, you will need to provide evidence of your payslips and bank statements which show your income.

IMPORTANT: Whether you are applying for Legal Aid based on benefits or low income, this will be “aggregated” if you live with your partner. This means that the household income will be taken into account. If you receive joint Universal Credit, this will also be taken into account.

However, if you live with your partner and they are not the other participant at mediation, then this will not apply.

There is also a test based on your capital. At Direct Mediation Services, our expert team will do this for you based on a questionnaire that you complete, as it can be complicated. They may get in touch with you, if they have any questions about your application. The capital test mainly looks at your property, your savings, any investments, and any valuables that you may own.

Often our largest asset is our property. For the purposes of the Legal Aid Application, only the first £100,000 of your mortgage will be considered. Additionally, if you are coming to mediation to discuss finances then there will be a disregard of £100,000 for the Subject Matter of Dispute (SMOD).

To this effect, just because you receive a particular benefit or are on a low income, you may not qualify for Legal Aid if you have a sizeable asset. This is based on the rules set by the Legal Aid Agency. If you are unsure on this, you can contact the office and speak to our Legal Aid expert, Dr. Dorian Ramirez Sosa, on 0113 468 9593.

What does Legal Aid cover?

If your Legal Aid application is successful, then you will receive fully funded mediation throughout the process. You will not need to pay any costs. Your Legal Aid will also cover the costs for the other participant’s MIAM and the first hour of joint mediation. After this, they will have to cover their own costs if they do not qualify for Legal Aid in their own right.

What if I don’t qualify for Legal Aid but my ex-partner does?

In these circumstances you can still receive the funding for your MIAM and the first hour of joint mediation. You will need to pay our fixed fee of £120 for the MIAM initially, which will then be refunded should the other party accept the invitation to mediate and be successful for Legal Aid.

The easiest way is for the person who qualifies for Legal Aid to come to mediation first. If you are able to communicate with the other party before coming to mediation, it can be useful to ask them to come first so that the funding is available from the outset.

A good thing to remember is the recent introduction of the Family Mediation Voucher scheme if you do not qualify for Legal Aid. You can read more about the voucher scheme here, but essentially the voucher scheme is available for anyone who is coming to mediation to discuss children. It does not apply in financial only cases. It will provide a sum of £500 toward the costs of joint mediation.

Overall

We are pleased to be able to offer our services free of charge to those who qualify for Legal Aid. Whilst the Legal Aid Agency continue to pay us the same fees as over 20 years ago, we think it is important that our services are accessible and available to those who need it. Since the cuts to Legal Aid over the last decade to Family Law, it is more important than ever that it remains in mediation. If you or someone you know is struggling to access mediation due to finances, we are able to provide information and support over the phone (0113 468 9593) or via email: [email protected]

If you are unsure if mediation is right for you, you can read more about mediation here. Don’t forget, if mediation does not go ahead for you and you wish to apply to the Court, you can still get support paying your court fees. Use the following eligibility checker to find out more:

If you require support making an application to Court you can contact Support Through Court or through the Family Court Application Service ([email protected])

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I qualify for Legal Aid?

You can qualify for legal aid if you receive a qualifying benefit such as Universal Credit or low income.

What is the threshold for low income?

The threshold set by the Legal Aid Agency for low income is a disposable income of less than £733 per month.

What evidence will I need to provide?

If you are applying for Legal Aid because you receive a benefit you will need to show your award letter, or if you receive Universal Credit, a screenshot of your entitlement is sufficient. However it must show your name and address. For low income applicants, you will need to submit your bank statements and pay slips for the last 30 days.

What if I qualify for Legal Aid but my ex-partner does not?

You will qualify for Legal Aid funding for the duration of the mediation process. Your Legal Aid will cover mediation costs for your ex-partner's MIAM and first hour of joint mediation, unless they qualify for Legal Aid in their own right. In this situation, you could consider using the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme (information of which can be found on our website).

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Direct Mediation Services

Direct Mediation Services is a trading name of The Intelligent Solutions Group Ltd. The company is registered in England and Wales. Company number 7760633. VAT number 334 1841 12. Our company’s registered address is 5 Carla Beck House, Carla Beck Lane, Carleton, Skipton, BD23 3BQ.

 

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