Research conducted for the Law Society by Ipsos MORI shows a clear statistical link between getting early legal advice and resolving problems sooner. The analysis adds weight to the argument that early legal advice – much of which was removed under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) - should be reinstated.
Senior Solicitor Michelle Lewis, who works in the Family Law team at Churchers, said: “There certainly needs to be further consideration to provide early legal advice following one’s separation. Parties often feel afraid to take the leap to separate from their partner due to fear of financial consequences, their safety and the impact this may have on their children. This leaves people in an extremely vulnerable situation if they cannot afford legal advice.
The research shows that, on average, 1 in 4 people who receive early professional legal advice had resolved their problem within 3-4 months. For those who did not receive early legal advice, it was not until 9 months after the issue had first occurred that 1 in 4 had resolved their issue.
Michelle added: “Clients need to be advised about the different processes and their entitlements as soon as possible. If clients are receiving appropriate advice early on, then potentially disputes would be resolved or matters concluded within a shorter timeframe. One would also hope this would increase referrals to mediation and reduce the number of court applications being made.”
This analysis has found that, between an issue arising and the problem being resolved, people who did not receive early advice were 20% less likely than average to have had their issue resolved.
After most areas of free or subsidised early legal advice were stopped by the government in 2012, legal aid is no longer available for family breakdown and child custody. A direct result is that mediation referrals have plummeted, putting pressure on courts and therefore public finances.
Christina Blacklaws, the Law Society´s Vice President, said: “The benefits of early advice are clear. We are calling on the government to ensure justice is accessible to those who need it.”
The Law Society is campaigning for legal aid to be re-introduced for early legal advice. You can follow the campaign here.
If you have a family issue you wish to discuss, please call Michelle on 02392 210170.