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. You can find a full list of updated evidence here

NOTE: From 8 January 2018 changes to eligibility requirements for Legal Aid in Family Law private disputes have come into effect. There will no longer be a time limit on abuse evidence, which previously stood at five years. Additionally, the range of documents accepted as evidence of abuse has been widened to include statements from domestic violence support organisations and housing support officers.

(Please note that ‘B’ in this context refers to the other party in the private family case).

1. Evidence that B has been arrested for a relevant domestic violence offence

The evidence should name the person (B), who must be the other party in the case, as either under investigation or charged with the offence, and must be in relation to a domestic violence offence. A list of domestic violence offences can be found here.

2. A relevant police caution for a domestic violence offence

The police caution must include the name of the person cautioned (B) who must be the other party in the case. The evidence may be that B was cautioned for a domestic violence offence against your client or another person with whom B is or was in a family relationship.

The evidence must also reflect that B was cautioned for a relevant domestic violence offence. A list of the domestic violence offences can be found here.

3. Evidence of relevant criminal proceedings for a domestic violence offence which have not concluded

The evidence should name the person charged with the offence (B) who must be the other party in the case. It must also show that B has been charged with a domestic violence offence against your client or another person with whom B is or was in a family relationship. This criterion is not satisfied unless B has been formally charged although the proceedings may not have been listed for hearing.

4. A relevant conviction for a domestic violence offence

The evidence should name the person charged (B) with the offence and they must be the other party in the case. The evidence may be that B was convicted for a domestic violence offence against your client or another person with whom B is or was in a family relationship.

5. A domestic violence protection notice issued under section 24 of the Crime and Security 2010 against B

A domestic violence protection notice (“DVPN”) is an emergency non-molestation and eviction notice, and issued to the perpetrator by the police and contain a prohibition usually barring the perpetrator from the victim’s home and/or from contacting the victim to protect victims or persons at risk of domestic violence. A DVPN will come into effect from the time the notice is served to the perpetrator (B) who must be the other party to the case. The evidence may be that B was issued with a DVPN in relation to your client or another person with whom B is or was in a family relationship.

6. 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.

7. A relevant protective injunction

The evidence must name the person against whom the injunction was made (B) who must be the other party in the case and name the protected party who must be your client or another person who is or was in a family relationship with B. However, if for, example, the relevant protective injunction is a restraining order obtained following criminal proceedings this evidence might also be satisfied by a document from the police.

8. A copy of a finding of fact, made in proceedings in the United Kingdom, that there has been domestic violence by B

This evidence will be in the form of a judgement or Court document (including a Tribunal if relevant). The finding of fact may be in relation to your client or to another person with whom B is, or was, in a family relationship.

There must have been a specific finding of fact made. Where this is the only evidence provided, the finding must have been made prior to the application for legal aid and could have been made at any time prior to the application. However, findings made after the application for legal aid will be accepted as additional proof of domestic violence where this may be required.

9. An expert report produced as evidence in proceedings in the United Kingdom for the benefit of a court or tribunal confirming that a person with whom B is or was in a family relationship, was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B

This evidence must be in the form of an expert report produced as evidence for the court or tribunal proceedings in the United Kingdom, confirming that your client or another person with whom B is or was in a family relationship has been assessed as being, or at risk of being a victim of domestic violence by B.

An “expert report” means a report by a person qualified to give expert advice on all or most of the matters that are subject of the report. This will include a report from Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass or Cafcass Cymru).

10. Letter or report from an Appropriate Health Professional

A letter or report from an appropriate health professional confirming that that professional, or another appropriate health professional:

  • has examined A in person; and
  • in the reasonable professional judgement of the author or the appropriate examining health professional A has, or has had, injuries or a condition consistent with being a victim of domestic violence.

11. Multi-Agency risk assessment conference

A letter from any person who is a member of a multi- agency risk assessment conference (or other suitable local safeguarding forum) confirming that A, or a person with whom A is in a family relationship, is or has been at risk of harm from domestic violence by B.

There is no specific definition of a local safeguarding forum but it should consist of more than one agency/organisation.

The evidence must set out that your client or a person with whom your client is in a family relationship such as their child is or has been at risk of domestic violence from B who must be the other party in the case.

Examples of bodies that might be part of other suitable local safeguarding forums and from which a letter would be accepted are:

  • Police
  • Probation Service
  • Prison Service
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Social Services

12. Letter from an independent domestic violence advisor

This evidence must be from an individual who is an independent domestic violence advisor/advocate (IDVA) and must confirm that they are providing support to your client. The letter must name your client as the victim.

13. Letter from an independent sexual violence advisor

This evidence must be from an individual who is an independent sexual violence advisor/advocate(ISVA) and must confirm that they are providing support to your client relating to sexual violence by B. Where possible, the letter must name your client as the victim.

14. Letter from a local authority or housing association

A letter from an officer employed by a local authority or housing association (or their equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland) for the purpose of supporting tenants containing:

  • a statement to the effect that, in their reasonable professional judgement, a person with whom B is or has been in a family relationship is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by B;
  • a description of the specific matters relied upon to support that judgement; and
  • a description of the support they provided to the victim of domestic violence or the person at risk of domestic violence by B.

The evidence must include a statement from the officer confirming that in their reasonable professional judgement your client or an individual with whom B is or was in a family relationship, is or has been at risk of being a victim of domestic violence by B.

The letter must also include a description of:
• the specific matters the officer has relied upon to support their judgement; and
• the support that they have provided to the individual who is, or is at risk of being a victim of domestic violence.

15. Letter from organisation providing domestic violence support services

The letter must confirm that it:

  • is situated in England and Wales;
  • that the organisation has been operating for an uninterrupted period of six months or more; and
  • provided A with support in relation to A’s needs as a victim, or person at risk, of domestic violence

The letter must contain:

  • a statement to the effect that, in the reasonable professional judgement of the
    author the letter, A is, or is at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence;
  • a description of specific matters relied upon to support that judgement;
  • a description of the support provided to A; and
  • a statement of the reasons why A needed that support

16. Domestic violence support organisation refusal of admission to a refuge

A letter or report from an organisation providing domestic violence support services in the United Kingdom confirming that:

  • a person with whom B is or was in a family relationship was refused admission to a refuge;
  • the date on which they were refused admission to the refuge; and
  • they sought admission to the refuge because of allegations of domestic violence by B.” 

The evidence must state the date that either your client, or another individual who is or was in a family relationship with B who must be the other party to the case, sought refuge but was refused entry.

The evidence must state that either your client or an individual who is or was in a family relationship with B sought admission to a refuge because of allegations of domestic violence by B.

17. Financial Abuse

Evidence which the Director is satisfied demonstrates that A has been, or is at risk of being, the victim of domestic Violence by B in the form of abuse which relates to financial matters.

The regulations do not prescribe a specific type of evidence that an individual must provide to demonstrate that they are a victim of financial abuse. The statutory guidance framework, “Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship (December 2015)” published by the Home Office sets out examples of evidence which could potentially demonstrate that a person has been a victim of financial abuse including bank statements and text messages