The introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 [‘LASPO’] on 1st April 2013, effectively blocked access to legal aid for most Family Law cases outside where domestic violence or child abuse issues are involved.
Legal Services Payment Orders were introduced as an attempt to address the problem that LASPO caused in Family Law cases, where one side (often the wife) is ineligible for legal aid but also has minimal capital. This naturally puts them at a disadvantage when, for example, they are in a legal dispute with their husband/wife who has considerable financial assets and is seeking to be as obstructive as possible in the Courts.
A Legal Services Payment Order is where one party to the marriage is ordered to pay the other an amount for the purpose of enabling that party to obtain legal services.
A Legal Services Payment Order can be granted in terms of:
- A one-off payment
- Payments in instalments
- Payment for a specified period i.e. the whole proceedings or up to a particular stage in proceedings
The Order is also not set in stone. If there is a significant change in circumstances since it was initially agreed, the Order can be amended.
The legal proceedings to which Payment Orders apply are:
- Financial Remedy
- Judicial Separation
The Court considers the following when making an Order:
Whether there were initial attempts to avoid ending up in the Courts by means of mediation etc. The Court then goes on to consider the wider issues of income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties has. There will be also be an assessment of any likely changes in any of these factors as well as earning capacity or obligations for either party in the immediate future.
The matter of whether the paying party is legally represented and the applicant’s conduct in relation to proceedings are also considered.
Finally the Court must consider whether the order is likely to cause any undue hardship to the paying party or prevent them from obtaining legal services for the purposes of the proceedings.