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Accessing legal support

The information on this page is relevant to England and Wales.

If you have experienced economic abuse by an abusive partner, you may be involved in legal proceedings now or in the future. This may mean you are faced with legal bills that could be difficult to afford.  

Some support may be available through the government’s legal aid scheme, depending on your circumstances. There are also some organisations (below) that can provide support at low or no cost. 

First steps 

You may be able to access some initial, free legal advice from an advice agency before you begin legal proceedings. This can help you to decide whether you need to find a lawyer  and to think about your next steps. A lawyer is either a solicitor or a barrister. A solicitor mainly deals with legal work outside of court, and a barrister usually represents clients in court.

The following organisations may be able to support you with some advice:  

Citizens Advice 
Local Citizens Advice centres can offer legal advice and help you to find a local lawyer.   

Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors (FLOWS) 
A legal support service for women who have experienced domestic abuse. Can support you to find an advice agency or solicitor who can help you decide what to do next.  

Law Works 
Offers free legal advice through a network of local law clinics. 

Legal Choices 
Can support you to find out which area of law you need support with, whether you might need a lawyer and how to find one. 

Rights of Women
The National Family Law Line run by Rights of Women can provide advice on matters including: domestic abuse; divorce, finance and property issues; parental responsibility and arrangements for children. Call on 020 7251 6577 (Tues–Thu, 7pm–9pm; Fri, 12pm–2pm).  

It may also be helpful to read the information on family law from Rights of Women.  

Finding a lawyer  

Some of the organisations above may be able to help you to find a lawyer. You can also search a list of lawyers that provide support to clients eligible for legal aid (government financial support).  An additional list is available from Public Law Project. See more information on legal aid below.  

A lawyer can outline your legal options and represent you in court. Many lawyers will offer an initial 30-minute appointment free of charge. During this appointment, it will be helpful to explain to the lawyer about the abuse you have experienced so that they understand your circumstances.  

Your lawyer will perform a conflict of interest check to ensure they are not working for the abuser. This is particularly helpful if you live in an area with a small number of law firms.  

You do not have to instruct the first lawyer that you meet and may wish to speak to more than one before making a decision.

Legal aid is financial support to help meet the cost of legal advice and representation in a court or tribunal. It is available in cases of domestic abuse (including economic abuse), depending on your circumstances.  

A lawyer will be able to support you to find out if you are eligible for legal aid. They can make the application on your behalf. 

Providing evidence  

You usually will need to show evidence that you have experienced domestic abuse. A lawyer or legal advice agency will be able to advise on the evidence that would be beneficial in your case, depending on your circumstances. Your bank, a health professional or domestic abuse support service may be able to support you to gather evidence. No evidence is required if you are requesting an injunction. An injunction may be a non-molestation order to prevent the abuser from harming you, or an occupation order to decide who can live in the family home.   

Rights of Women’s Guide to Family Law Legal Aid has more information on applying for legal aid and providing evidence.   

“It would have made a huge difference to myself and my children to have had legal aid and some initial free advice.”

To be eligible for legal aid, you will usually also need to pass a means test to prove that you cannot afford to pay legal costs. You will be asked for information about your finances, including your income, savings and property you may own.  

The legal aid means test does not take account of many of the tactics that perpetrators of economic abuse use. The abuse you have experienced may prevent you from accessing income, savings and other economic resources that you are required to declare in the means test. For example, the abuser may be refusing to pay child maintenance or their share of the mortgage, leaving you with no disposable income or in debt.  

There is information below on finding support if you are deemed not to be eligible for legal aid. This information may also be useful if you are offered some help from legal aid but are asked to make contributions that you can’t afford.  

If you are a homeowner, it may be harder to prove that you cannot afford to pay legal fees. However, the Legal Aid Agency has recently recognised that domestic abuse survivors may have ‘trapped capital’. Trapped capital is money that is tied up in a property and that you can’t access. This may be because you jointly own your home with the abuser and they will not agree to the property being sold or borrowed against. This change to the legal aid rules means that, in some cases, it may now be easier for you to access legal aid as a homeowner.

Other financial support 

We have information on some hardship grants that may be available. It may be possible to get a grant to cover at least some of your costs if you are not eligible for legal aid, or if you are asked to pay contributions that you can’t afford. You can search for more grants on the Turn2us website.  

It is important to speak to a money adviser if you are considering taking out a loan, such as a litigation loan, to cover your legal costs. This form of lending can often lead to very large amounts of debt and should be approached cautiously. 

If you are not eligible for legal aid, you may still be able to access advice or representation from a lawyer free of charge. Some law firms will offer a short appointment to discuss your needs at no cost, or some may work on a ‘pay later’ basis, where the legal fees can, for example, be paid from the financial settlement. Citizens Advice has information on affordable ways to use a solicitor

The following organisations may be able to help you find representation if you can’t afford a lawyer. 

Provides free legal assistance from volunteer barristers. 

Coram Children’s Legal Centre  
Provides casework, advice and representation on legal matters related to children through its Legal Practice Unit.  

Daisy Chain Project 
Can offer advice, support and representation in court for people who do not qualify for legal aid. 

DARA – Domestic Abuse Response Alliance
Lawyers from leading law firms can represent people who are not eligible for legal aid and who can’t afford private representation to seek protective injunctions against the abuser.

Law Centres Network 
Local law centres can offer face-to-face legal advice and representation for people who can’t afford a lawyer.  

National Pro Bono Centre 
Can provide free legal advice and representation.  

RCJ Advice 
A Citizens Advice Service that can offer free legal advice and representation in family law cases. 

Representing yourself

You do not have to be represented by a lawyer. You can represent yourself as a litigant in person (LIP). Rights of Women has information that may be helpful if you plan to represent yourself in family legal proceedings

The following organisations may be able to support you through court proceedings with information and advice if you are representing yourself.  

McKenzie Friends 
Can accompany you to court if you are representing yourself in a family legal case. Experienced in court proceedings, McKenzie Friends can offer advice and support, as well as take notes.  

Personal Justice Services  
A low-cost service to support those representing themselves in court. Can provide support with drafting documents for court and explaining the court process.  

Support Through Court  
A free service offering support and guidance before, during and after court. Can provide emotional and practical support to those without a lawyer, including explaining how the court works and filling in forms.  

We have information on organisations that can provide legal advice across a wide range of issues.

Find other organisations that can help

Last updated July 2022

Further support

If you are experiencing economic abuse, you are not alone. We have more information that can support you to take steps towards safety and begin to regain control of your finances.