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Financial Help for People on Low Incomes

By: James Bloom - Updated: 7 Dec 2018 | comments*Discuss
Divorce Legal Aid Law Centre Benefits

If you are separating and receive a low income you will probably be able to claim from a number of sources of financial assistance. From tax credits and benefits through to assistance with childcare to free legal advice and representation - if you are eligible you should consider applying.

Legal Aid

If you are on a low income you will almost certainly be able to receive legal aid. If you are on benefits you are definitely eligible. If not, your income and capital must be within the recommended financial threshold. Just ask your solicitor and you can make an application together. Remember the process might take a little while to go through so apply as early as possible. Legal aid comes in a number of forms:

  • Legal Help: Help drawing up and completing legal forms and documents.
  • Help at Court: A solicitor speaks on your behalf at hearings.
  • Help at Mediation: Legal advice if you are attending mediation sessions.
  • General Family Help: Help specifically to resolve family disputes.
  • Legal Representation: This can be investigative help as well as full representation at court.

Law Centres and Other Options

Depending on your specific circumstances you may be able to get some or all of the above forms of help. If you are not eligible, try your local Law Centre (link to article on CABs and Law Centres?). They offer free advice to anyone regardless of their circumstances.

Also, some solicitors give free legal assistance on the basis that the client will pay a portion of the costs once a settlement on property or capital has been made. If you do not have much money, are not eligible for state assistance but want proper representation, this may be the right option for you.

Tax and Benefits

If you are the only adult in your household you will be considered a separate individual by the Inland Revenue, and will be eligible for a 25% reduction in council tax. You may also be eligible for a number of other tax credits, depending on your income. If you have children no matter what your income you can claim basic Child Benefit.

All tax credits are means-tested, but you may be surprised what you are eligible for as a single parent, even if your earnings are relatively high. Credits are divided into a basic family ‘element’ and a child element for each of your dependants. You can claim the entire family element of £547 even if you earn £55,000 per year. The child elements are awarded at the maximum level of £1,760 if you earn less than £16,000. Above that threshold they start to reduce the amount.

Remember that once you apply for benefits, the Child Support Agency becomes involved. As part of a divorce settlement involving children, the court will usually consider what the CSA would recommend if it were asked to make a ruling regarding residency and maintenance. The ground rules about what constitutes a fair settlement and related maintenance payment issues are set by the CSA.

Child Care

You may also need help with the care of your children. If friends and family are not available, you should contact the National Childminding Association. Tax credits are available that will cover the entire cost of a child minder.

Emergency Help

There are a number of charities that offer financial and other forms of help – for example free temporary accommodation – to people going through a separation. They may also provide help for your children. Call your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for a list of charities and other advice. Bear in mind that if you temporarily leave the family home you do not lose any rights to the property.

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My partner has been trying to finalise his divorce for 2 years but his ex spouse keeps revoking a financial settlement each time she agrees she later has a change of heart. There are no dependant children, ex works and earns more than him also they have no mortgage. She has paid her lawyer fees up front so theres no pressure from her solicitor, but my partner has to pay an amount monthly as he cant get legal aid. Its obvious his ex isnt going to move out of the home without a court order but his solicitor wont take it to court until he pays a further £5000 up front (which he hasnt got) as all his money is tied up in the property. Property valued at £375,000hes told he cant qualify for legal aid as he has assets but how can he pay anything until the house is made to go up for sale? Everything has now come to a standstill . Can you please advise us where we go from here?
wendal01 - 28-Apr-15 @ 1:34 AM
Hi im wantim a devorce been waitin years im we a new partner engagged n wantin to get married but need this devorce to happen help
Tina Roy - 10-Aug-14 @ 7:55 PM
The problem is that with the new ideas from the Ministry of Justice, a lot of these things will change and there will be very little legal aid available - people are waiting to see how it shakes down before anyone can be fully certain. What is definite is that it will affect financial aid for divorce, and this could possibly lead to a different type of divorce, the DIY, often found in the US, where couples with few assets and both agreeing to divorce, can do it themselves.
William T - 25-Jun-12 @ 2:31 PM
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