Information

Legal aid if your child is at risk of abuse

This page explains the different forms of evidence accepted for legal aid for private family law disputes when you care for a child who is at risk of abuse 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 your child is at risk of abuse and you can’t afford to pay legal costs. Anyone with the care of a child may seek to protect them, for example, a grandmother with care of a child who seeks to prevent the child’s father from having contact.

“Abuse” in this context means physical or mental abuse, including sexual abuse, and abuse in the form of violence, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation.

The evidence must show that you are seeking to protect a child from the risk of abuse from the other party to the proceedings. Some forms of evidence do not require you to show that an offence has been committed against the particular child you are wishing to protect, check below for further details.

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 34 of The Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 sets out the evidence needed to claim legal aid due to a risk of child abuse. These are listed below:

1a. An unspent conviction for a child abuse offence

This evidence should name the person convicted of a relevant child abuse offence (who must be the other party in the case). The offence does not need to be against the child you are seeking to protect, it can be against any child.

The offence must be a relevant child abuse offence. A list of child abuse offences can be found here.

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.

1b. A spent conviction for a child abuse offence

This evidence should name the person convicted of a relevant child abuse offence (who must be the other party in the case). The offence does not need to be against the child you are seeking to protect, it can be against any child.

The offence must be a relevant child abuse offence. A list of child abuse offences can be found here.

The conviction for a domestic violence offence must have been within the 24 months immediately before the date of the application for legal aid.

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 child abuse offence or letter from the police confirming this

The police caution must have been for a child abuse offence and have been given within the 24 months immediately before the date of the application for legal aid. It must name the person cautioned (who must be the other party in the case) but the offence does not need to be against the child you are seeking to protect.

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 child abuse offence

The evidence should name the person formally charged with a child abuse offence (who must be the other party in the case) but the offence does not need to be against the child you are seeking to protect.

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 for evidence.

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 for the child

The evidence should show that there is a relevant protective injunction protecting the child concerned from the respondent. The protective injunction must be in force or have been granted within the 24 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 (the child) and the person whom the injunction was made against (who must be the other party in the case).

5. Finding of Fact of child abuse

The evidence should be a judgment or Court document showing that a child was abused 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 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application for legal aid.

6. Police bail for a child abuse offence

The evidence should show that the other party in the case is on police bail for a child abuse offence.

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.

7. Children’s Services Letter

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 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application, there has been an assessment confirming that the child you are seeking to protect was or is at risk of being a victim of abuse.

8. Children’s Services Child Protection Plan

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 24 month period immediately preceding the date of the application, there was a Child Protection Plan for the child you are seeking to protect.

The risk of abuse must come from someone other than yourself.

9. Application for a protective injunction with an application for a prohibited steps order

The evidence should be a copy of an application for a protective injunction AND a copy of an application for a prohibited steps order. The application must seek to protect the child from the other party.