Private Fees & Legal Aid
You are probably aware that Legal Aid for family matters, or family disputes (including things like divorce, family separation, residency of children, child support and child contact) is no longer available through Solicitors, unless there are circumstances of evidenced domestic violence or a few other exemptions.
But did you know that Legal Aid is still available if you attend family mediation with a family mediation service that holds a Legal Aid contract? There are a number of mediation centres in Kent where you can get Free Mediation and Free legal help from a Family Solicitor in Kent.
Kent Family Mediation Service has a contract with the Legal Aid Agency to provide Legal Aid for clients that are accessed as being eligible to claim for Legal Aid, providing they attend family mediation. Low income earners; parents and individuals can apply for Legal Aid.
Kent Family Mediation Service carries out Legal Aid Assessments on all clients, unless they opt to pay privately as a fee paying client. Legal Aid assessments are confirmed at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) when all capital and income (and that of any new partners) are used to assess whether clients may be eligible or not.
On 22 April 2014 it was made compulsory for disputing ex partners, ex couples or ex family members to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), before applying to go to court, or taking someone to court over a family legal case involving property, finances, the family home, a house, debts, pensions or disputes over children e.g. residency disputes, disputes over child maintenance support, or child contact disputes.
From 03 November 2014, the Government pledged to pay for the first family mediation session and the initial MIAM; Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting for private, fee paying family mediation clients, providing the other person involved in the family legal dispute or family mediation case is assessed as being eligible to claim Legal Aid. The Government have done this because they want to deter people who are going through separate or divorce from applying to court over arrangements for the children and money matters such as the family home, finances and pensions.
If you are a private family mediation client, or if you want to pay privately for family mediation, Kent Family Mediation Service fees are competitively low, which makes attending family mediation far cheaper than going down the legal route for a divorce, or to sort out a family dispute. Please contact us if you wish to make a referral for mediation.
What is Legal Aid?
The Legal Aid Agency is a Government body that provides Legal Aid (funding) for certain activities for those who are unemployed, claiming benefits, or on a low income. Kent Family Mediation Service carries out Legal Aid Assessments. Family mediation clients who qualify for Legal Aid through Kent Family Mediation Service will receive Free Mediation and will also get Free Legal help from a participating Family Solicitor in Kent.
“Legal Aid is a large pot of government money that has been set aside for people on low incomes, who are not working ,or who have minimal capital assets to pay for Family Mediation to help to resolve their family disputes – Don’t let this precious Legal Aid money go to waste!”
Can I get Legal Aid?
If you want to apply for Legal Aid, you first need to make a referral for family mediation. If you are claiming any of the following benefits (and we have seen up to date evidence of this) you may qualify for free mediation with Kent Family Mediation Service, and free legal help from a participating Family Solicitor in Kent. The Legal Aid assessment takes into consideration your income, and any capital assets that you may have. Kent Family Mediation Service staff will need to see evidence of these before they can assess you for Legal Aid. However, please note that you are also assessed on capital as well as income.
- Income Support
- Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
- Income based Employment & Support Allowance
- Guaranteed State Pension Credit
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Universal Credit
Can I get Legal Aid if I am working?
You may be able to get Legal Aid if you are working and you are on a low income. If your gross income is less than £2,657 per month, your disposable monthly income is less than £733, or you earn less than £30,000 per year you may qualify for Legal Aid. If you have savings of less than £8,000, you may still be eligible to claim Legal Aid but this may depend on the amount of equity you have in your property if you have one. A Legal Aid assessment will also take any capital assets into account e.g. property, savings or assets that you have in your own name; including how much they are worth; (this is things like houses & shares etc.). If you live with a new partner, their income and capital assets will also be taken into account. We strongly recommend that you are assessed for Legal Aid to check to see whether you are eligible to claim, because if you are, you will not have to pay for Family Mediation.
Will I have to pay my Legal Aid back at any point?
No, you will not have to pay back any Legal Aid, providing that you try mediation. This also means that you won’t have to pay anything back out of any financial settlement that you get, regardless of how much money you receive following an agreement.
How do I make a claim for Legal Aid?
If you want to claim Legal Aid for Mediation then you will need to make a referral to Kent Family Mediation Service. A member of our staff will discuss Legal Aid with you and carry out a Legal Aid Assessment once you have provided up to date evidence of your own, and any new partner’s, income and any capital assets. The evidence you will need to give to be assessed will depend on your individual circumstances and this might be your last month’s payslip if you are working, up to date evidence of any benefits you are claiming as a single or joint claim, your last 4 weeks bank statements, your rental agreement if you are renting, a property valuation if you own your own home and an up to date mortgage statement, statements or valuations of any shares you may hold.
If you are self-employed we will need to see your last set of accounts in addition to other information we may need you to provide. If you live with a new partner, their income and capital assets will also need to be taken into account during your assessment for Legal Aid.
What if I don’t qualify for Legal Aid or I don’t want Legal Aid?
If you don’t qualify for Legal Aid, or you want to pay privately for your family mediation you can still mediate, but you will need to pay as a private family mediation client. From 03 November 2014 the government pledged to pay for the first mediation session and the initial MIAM; Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting for all private, fee paying mediation clients, providing that the other person involved in the mediation case is assessed as being eligible to claim Legal Aid. Please contact Kent Family Mediation if you wish to discuss this. Currently, the Government is also offering clients to apply for the Mediation Voucher Scheme. This is not means tested and will pay up to £500 per case towards joint mediation meetings involving child matters (it does not cover the MIAM or any paperwork/reports resulting from a successful mediation).
How much Are Kent Family Mediation Service private fees?
Kent Family Mediation Service is a Registered Charity. The service gets its funding from Government grants and donations from individuals, businesses and organisations. These funds enable us to offer affordable and competitive private fees for clients who want to mediate, but don’t qualify for Legal Aid. Please contact Kent Family Mediation Service to find out about our private mediation fees, or if you wish to make a donation to Kent Family Mediation Service.
Can I see a Solicitor at the same time as attending mediation?
Yes, you see a Family Solicitor at the same time as attending mediation. If you qualify for Legal Aid you will get free legal help from a participating Family Solicitor. If you are a fee paying client you can still consult with a solicitor at key points during the mediation process. During your first mediation appointment, your Kent Family Mediator will talk to you about using a Solicitor During Mediation.
Where can I find mediation in Kent?
Kent Family Mediation Service has 13 accessible family mediation centres across East Kent, West Kent, South East Kent, Mid Kent, North Kent and South Kent.
You may attend Kent family mediation at a:
- Family Mediation Centre in Ashford
- Family Mediation Centre in Canterbury
- Family Mediation Centre in Chatham
- Family Mediation Centre in Dartford
- Family Mediation Centre in Gillingham
- Family Mediation Service in Maidstone
- Family Mediation Centre in Sittingbourne
- Family Mediation Centre in Sevenoaks
- Family Mediation Centre in Tunbridge Wells
Does Family Mediation Work?
Family Mediation will help sort out family disputes and arguments after a relationship break up, a split up, break up, family separation, or before, after or during a divorce. Disputes that can be resolved in family mediation include:
- Custody of a child or custody of children
- Your children or child’s schooling and education
- Who has the children in the holidays and at Christmas
- If you want to see your child, how often you will see your child and setting up child contact with an ex-partner or grandparent
- If you are being stopped from seeing your grandson or granddaughter and you would like to see them
- Child Support Maintenance or Child Support. Agreeing an amount of child support maintenance, collection and payment of child support maintenance
- Maintenance payments from an ex-partner
- Property, finance and pensions e.g. who keeps the house, or family home, who stays in the house, where the other person will live, sorting out things like money, debts, bills, savings and bank accounts to make sure that things are sorted out fairly and that you can both afford to live.
I Want To Mediate – What do I do now?
If you want to attend mediation, please make an online referral, or telephone the main Kent Family Mediation Service office on 01795 410457
I am not sure about Mediating, what are my other options for sorting out my family issues?
Mediation works, but if you are still not sure about whether mediation is for you, why not look at the other options that are open to you. It may be worth remembering that on 22 April 2014 the Governments Ministry of Justice made it compulsory for people involved in family legal disputes to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before they can make an application to go to court. Find out more about your options.
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