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Act now before Legal Aid gets cut – and consider Lasting Power of Attorney
Elaine O’Brien, family lawyer at Collins Solicitors, looks at Legal Aid now the LASPO Act is Law; and why you need to consider Lasting Power of Attorney
Q: My marriage is firmly on the rocks and on top of that we are worried about the cost of getting divorced. When do the Legal Aid cuts come in and what will be the impact? Separately, my parents are also getting older and I want to know whether there are any legal considerations I need to think about.
A: Divorce: The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) has received Royal Assent and is now an Act of Parliament. The reforms are due to be implemented on April 1, 2013. This will mean huge changes to the type of cases which are eligible for Legal Aid public funding.
We strongly suggest that there are a number of issues which could benefit from getting organised sooner rather than later – and one of them is divorce.
From April, divorce proceedings will be out of the scope of Legal Aid funding, and it will not be available. Family finance cases (often linked to divorce proceedings) and Private law children proceedings such as contact and residence disputes between separating parents will also be out of the scope of funding – apart from those cases where domestic violence or child abuse is present.
Collins Solicitors holds a Legal Services Commission Specialist Quality Mark (SQM) and has the knowledge and experience to be able to quickly assess any individual’s circumstances as to whether they are likely to be eligible for public funding.
Those with ancillary financial and/or child-related disputes must first be referred to mediation before public funding applications can be made. Collins Solicitors has close links to accredited mediation services in the Hertfordshire/north London region.
Mediation can be successful in helping people reach an informed agreement without Court proceedings. However the process cannot be rushed and will inevitably delay your application for legal aid should they subsequently ensue.
Those going through separation or a relationship breakdown or who are in dispute with an ex-partner over the arrangements for their child need to take action NOW – well in advance of the changes in April.
Lasting Power of Attorney: Most of us know how important it is to make a Will. But it is also important for us to consider granting someone we wholly trust Lasting Power of Attorney. If you are left mentally unable to make decisions because of accident or illness the Court of Protection will take control of your assets.
With an ageing population it happens more than most people think. The preparation and registration of Lasting Power of Attorney (through the Office of the Public Guardian) would allow you and/or someone else nominated by your parents the right to look after specific aspects of their financial affairs or health and welfare, should the need arise.
This is just one of a great many services provided by Collins’ leading Family Department.
Contact Collins Solicitors on 01923 223324 or visit www.collinslaw.co.uk
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