Having already come under attack from different groups for the controversial cuts to legal aid, the government now faces the opposition of the House of Lords. Ex-minister Lord Bach who is now a Labour peer initiated a vote in the House of Lords over cuts to the legal aid budget which saw a majority of Lords vote against the cuts. Whilst the outcomes of such Regret Motions are legally insignificant, they do reveal the level of discontent amongst peers regarding ministerial actions.
The recently introduced reforms have seen an extra 500,000 people placed outside the qualifying criteria for legal aid. 2 in 5 will lose out because their case relates to a family dispute which has faced sweeping legal aid cuts. This means that issues relating to separation, divorce finances and children matters will often be outside the scope for legal aid.
Unfortunately, it appears likely that vulnerable people will lose out as a result of the cuts. Many of those excluded from legal aid will be unable to afford legal advice and as a result they will find themselves unable to pursue justice.
In the absence of legally aided divorce solicitors, the likely impact on divorce cases is set to be huge. There has long been concern over people attempting DIY divorces, and the numbers of such arrangements are set to increase following the legal aid cuts. The cuts are also expected to lead to a massive backlog of cases in the family courts. Self-represented litigants, acting without a divorce solicitor, take up an enormous amount of court time because they don’t understand proceedings, make basic legal errors and sometimes act theatrically in court which harms their case.
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