Information

Legal aid if you have been a victim of domestic abuse or violence

This page explains the different forms of evidence accepted for legal aid for private family law disputes when you have been a victim of domestic abuse or violence from the other party.

You may be entitled to legal aid for a private family law dispute (Child Arrangements Order, Prohibited Steps Order or Specific Issue Order) if you have been victim of domestic abuse or violence and you can’t afford to pay legal costs.

Domestic abuse or violence is defined as any incident, or pattern of incidents, of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (whether psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between individuals who are associated with each other.

Individuals associated with each other include individuals who:

  • Are married or in a civil partnership
  • Have agreed to marry or enter into a civil partnership
  • Have lived together in the same household as a couple
  • Have had a intimate personal relationship of a significant duration
  • Are relatives (parents, children, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews)
  • Are the parents of or have parental responsibility for the same child.

The evidence must show that you are or are at risk of being a victim of domestic abuse or violence from the other party in the case arising from a family relationship between you and the other party.

Where can I get this evidence from?

The Legal Aid Agency has produced sample letters that you can use to get the evidence you need, and these can be accessed here.

What is the evidence the Legal Aid Agency will consider?

Regulation 33 of The Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 as amended by The Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 sets out the evidence needed to claim legal aid due to domestic abuse or violence.

*Note: The Government has announced in February 2017 that it plans to change the rules. This page will be updated once the rules come in to force. See the bottom of this page for more information on the announcement.

1. An unspent conviction for a domestic violence offence

This evidence should name the person charged with the offence (who must be the other party in the case).

The offence must be a relevant domestic violence offence. A list of domestic violence offences can be found here.

Some sexual offences do not name the victim; however, for all other offences it must be possible to identify that you were the victim of the domestic violence.

Evidence of a domestic violence offence against a third party will not meet the criteria.

If the evidence relates to an offence committed outside of the UK, then a letter from the law enforcement agency from the country where the offence was committed may be considered.

2. A formal police caution for a domestic violence offence or letter from the police confirming this

The police caution must have been for a domestic violence offence and have been given within the 60 months immediately before the date of the application for legal aid.* It must include the name of the victim (who must be you) and the name of the person cautioned (who must be the other party in the case).

A police report showing that you have informed the police about an incident but the police took no further action will not be enough.

3. Ongoing criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence

The evidence should name the person formally charged with a domestic violence offence (who must be the other party in the case).

Where there is an ongoing investigation and the person is on police bail but the person has not been formally charged this will not be enough evidence for legal aid.

Ongoing proceedings for a domestic violence offence against a third party which you believe will place you at future risk of domestic violence will not be enough evidence for legal aid.

If the criminal proceedings are outside of the UK, then you can provide a letter from the law enforcement agency where the offence is being tried.

4. Protective injunction

The evidence should show that you have a relevant protective injunction which is in force or which was granted within the 60 month period immediately before the date of the application for legal aid.* A list of relevant protective injunctions can be found here. It will include ex parte injunctions.

From 16 May 2016 onwards the Legal Aid Agency will accept evidence of a Female Genital Mutilation Order, a Violent Offender order under section 98 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

You must provide a Court document detailing the relevant protective injunction. The evidence must name the protected party (who must be the person applying for civil legal aid) and the person whom the injunction was made against (who must be the other party in the case).

5. Undertaking

The evidence should show that an undertaking has been given within the 60 month period immediately before the date of the application for legal aid.* The evidence could be a general form of undertaking (currently N117) or any other court document. The undertaking should state that you are the victim and the respondent is the perpetrator.

6a. Police bail for a domestic violence offence

The evidence should show that the other party in the case is on police bail for a domestic violence offence against you.

This can be evidenced by a copy of the charge sheet from the police or formal written confirmation from the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.

If the person is not subsequently charged with the offence then this will not be enough evidence for legal aid.

6b. Relevant conviction for a domestic violence offence

From 25 April 2016 evidence of a domestic violence conviction in the 60 months preceding the application for legal aid will count as evidence.* The evidence should show that the other party in the family case has been convictedof a domestic violence offence.

7. MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference)

You may get legal aid if you have a letter from any person who is a member of a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) confirming that you were referred to conference as a victim of domestic violence; and the conference has, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid, put in place a plan to protect you from the perpetrator (the perpetrator must be named and the other party to the case).*

8. Finding of Fact of a risk of harm

The evidence should be a judgment or Court document showing that you are at risk of harm from domestic violence by the other party in the case. This can be a copy of a formal finding of fact, made in proceedings in the UK within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid.*

9. Letter from a Health Professional showing signs of domestic violence

The evidence should be a letter or report from a health professional who has access to your medical records, confirming that a health professional has examined you in person within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid; and was satisfied following that examination that you had injuries or a condition consistent with those of a victim of domestic violence.*

Note it is not necessary for the letter to name the perpetrator.

10. Children’s Services Letter showing risk of domestic violence

The evidence should be a letter from a children’s services department in England or Wales (or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) confirming that, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application, you were assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by the perpetrator (or a copy of that assessment).*

11. Domestic violence support organisation admission to a refuge letter

The evidence should be a letter or report from a domestic violence support organisation in the UK confirming

  • that you are, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid (and, where relevant, that period commences with the date on which you left the refuge), admitted to a refuge established for the purpose of providing accommodation for victims of, or those at risk of, domestic violence;*
  • the dates on which you were admitted to and, where relevant, left the refuge; and
  • that you were admitted to the refuge because of allegations by you of domestic violence.

Note: this evidence should be provided on letter headed paper from the organisation.

12. Refusal of admission to a refuge due to lack of accommodation

The evidence should be a letter or report from a domestic violence support organisation in the UK confirming

  • that you were, within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid, refused entry to a refuge established for the purpose of providing accommodation for victims of, or those at risk of, domestic violence, on account of there being insufficient accommodation available in the refuge;*
  • the date on which you were refused admission to the refuge and the reason for that refusal.

Note: this evidence should be provided on letter headed paper from the organisation.

13. Health professional referral to a domestic violence support service

The evidence should be a letter or report provided by the health professional that made the referral, the person to whom the referral was made (e.g. the domestic violence support organisation) or health professional that has access to your medical records.

The date of the referral must be within 60 months of the application for legal aid.*

The report should name you as the victim.

14. Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) and Domestic Violence Protection (DVPO) orders

The evidence should be a DVPN OR DVPO granted against the perpetrator within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of the application.*

This should be in the form of:

  • a court document detailing a DVPN/O; or
  • a copy of the charge sheet from the police; or
  • a document form the court confirming that the case has been listed; or
  • a formal written confirmation from the police or CPS or a ppn.police.uk email address

You should be named as the protected party.

15. Bind overs in connection with a domestic violence offence

A bind over is where a court binds a defendant over as an alternative to, or following, a prosecution for, a criminal offence for a domestic violence offence.

The evidence should be a relevant court order binding over the perpetrator in connection with a domestic violence offence, which is in force or which was granted within the 60 month period immediately preceding the date of application for legal aid.*

This should be in the form of:

  • A formal document from the court; or
  • Formal written confirmation from the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.

You should be named as the victim where the victim is named.

16. Evidence of abuse which relates to financial matters

From 25 April 2016 the Legal Aid Agency will accept evidence which the Director is satisfied demonstrates that you have been or are at risk of financial abuse in the 60 months immediately preceding the application for legal aid.*

Examples of evidence are listed below:

  • Copies of both the victims and the perpetrator’s bank statements and or cancelled cheques, relevant letters from banks
  • Credit card accounts, loan documents and statements
  • Business financial statements, employee benefit records including insurance, stock options and bonuses
  • Letter from a domestic violence support organisation
  • Money order receipts
  • Documentation with regard to any public assistance received
  • Emails, text messages, diary kept by the victim,
  • Letters from employers or from an education or training institute

*The Government has announced in February 2017 that it plans to remove the 60 month restriction for evidence of domestic abuse. They plan to accept evidence of the abuse regardless of the date of the evidence.

The Government has also announced that they plan to accept other forms of evidence of abuse including:

  • statements from organisations working with domestic abuse victims
  • letters from solicitors
  • information from housing officers

This page will be updated once the new rules come into force.