The following letter from the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) is now being sent out to all applicants for legal aid in contact/residence action.
The letter is effectively reminding applicants (and their solicitor if they have one) of the existing regulations and their obligations to behave reasonably if they are to receive public funding for their case. SLAB is now looking at applications more closely than before.
SLAB is reminding applicants of their obligations including:
- complying with all court orders made;
- not seeking to have the case conducted unreasonably or extended unnecessarily;
- ensuring that the welfare of the child or children is kept at the forefront of the minds of the parties; and
- to keep SLAB informed of any changes in financial circumstances;
SLAB says the letter sets out, “in unambiguous terms, our expectations when getting public funding. We believe this will assist us in our handling of assisted persons where problems arise.
“It will also set out a clear basis for the termination of any grant of civil legal aid should someone fail to comply with any of these requirements.”
From our perspective in mediation the following sentence is applicable.
Applicants are reminded ‘To comply with all court orders made including referrals to mediation. You must always do what the court order says even if you don’t agree with it.’
91 Haymarket Terrace
Edinburgh EH12 5HE
Telephone 0131 240 2034
Fax 0131 225 7862
COPY OF APPLICANT LETTER
REQUIREMENTS NOW YOUR CIVIL LEGAL AID APPLICATION IS GRANTED
Your application for civil legal aid for proceedings about care arrangements for a
child or children has been granted. Now that you have legal aid there are some
important points to remember.
You have been given public funding to help with your court case. It is very important
to remember that you have to treat this public funding responsibly. You need to meet
our requirements listed below for your grant of legal aid to continue. These
requirements apply to everyone who has legal aid for a dispute that concerns care
arrangements for a child or children. Please do not think that your case is an
exception to this.
We know that your case is very important to you and that it will make an important
decision about the child or children’s future. We also know that family disputes can
be very emotional and sometimes it is difficult to avoid letting negative feelings
about the opponent influence the way you want to run the case. However, this does
not mean that you can use your grant of civil legal aid irresponsibly or act
We require you:
- Keep the focus of the case on agreeing what is in the best interests of the child;
- To reduce, so far as possible, the areas of dispute that need to be decided by the court. You should only ask the court to decide issues that you cannot agree with the other party.
You must make every effort to agree as much as possible;
- To keep both your solicitor and SLAB informed of any changes in your circumstances while legal aid is in place. These changes could concern your financial circumstances including telling us if you have a new partner or other matters such as where you live or your ability to look after the child or children;
- Not to ask or to expect your solicitor to do anything that might extend the court case unnecessarily or unreasonably. The court case is to decide what is in the best interests of the child or children. It is not a place to re-run old arguments or problems that you may have had in your relationship with the opponent. People involved in family disputes often have very different perceptions about the factual history of the relationship but you need toremember that disputed issues between parties are often not directly relevant to deciding matters concerning the welfare of a child or children;
- To comply with all court orders made including referrals to mediation. Youmust always do what the court order says even if you don’t agree with it. Remember that you need to tell your solicitor about any changes in your circumstances that might affect your case. Your solicitor has to let us know if theybelieve you are asking for your case to be run unreasonably or you have forgotten to tell us something that could affect your case. This includes telling us if you are not meeting the requirements set out in this letter.
If you do not meet these requirements then we may stop your grant of civil legal aid.
If you have been assessed as having to pay a contribution towards your grant of legal
aid you may still need to pay this even if we stop your grant of legal aid.