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Since I began practising Family law over 23 years ago, the funding of family matters has changed substantially. Most people have to fund the case themselves and the number of litigants in person, those acting without representation, has increased substantially.
This is simply due to affordability and how people now choose to prioritise finances.
When I first started practising, legal aid as it was known then, was readily available for most family matters including divorce, finances, children matters and domestic violence. Unfortunately, due to cuts to public funding, a few years ago the criteria have changed, and legal aid/public funding is now only really available for matters relating to domestic abuse and public law proceedings i.e. care proceedings.
It is often those who do not have substantial funds to pay for legal advice who are forced to stay in a relationship until they can save or borrow to seek proper advice. Litigation funding, although it has been in place for some time, has not really emerged as something clients wish to take on. It is seen as another loan at a time of financial insecurity due to separation, so is considered as something to be avoided but in some cases, it is definitely worth considering.
You can choose to secure litigation funding so that you can proceed with your divorce, resolve children issues or sort out your finances without having to feel trapped in a relationship. The costs of the litigation itself will not increase as a result of litigation funding but of course nevertheless, a debt that will need to be repaid.
One party may have sufficient funds to afford legal representation whereas the other simply cannot. Litigation funding in this case is a means for both parties to be equally represented and be given appropriate legal advice on how to proceed. Perhaps, this is one of the most important considerations when considering litigation funding as that it may mean there is more equality achieved, for example, in distribution of assets, more equality and fairness on the outcome of the case whether it be relating to the children or relating to finances.
Could litigation funding be considered an empowerment of a party who is financially week as opposed to a party who has funds to litigate themselves? The answer must be a positive one.
How can we help?
At Pinney Talfourd we can offer you advice on litigation funding should you feel that you are unable to proceed due to lack of funds. We have access to a number of funders and can certainly point you in the right direction should you require it, or at the very least it will provide you with a number of options.
This article was written by Angela Sharma, Senior Associate in the Family Law Team. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of January 2021.