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eleafletHow can a solicitor help me?

If you contact a solicitor because you've been abused, or you fear being abused, the solicitor should advise you about what you can do, and the best choices for your situation.

How can a solicitor help me?

A solicitor can help you get an injunction (a court order) to keep you safe, if you need one. But you may not need to get an injunction - sometimes a strongly worded letter from a solicitor can stop your partner abusing you again. A solicitor should be able to arrange for you to get some advice about help with money and housing, if you have not been able to sort these out for yourself.

Your solicitor should check whether you can get legal aid to pay for any court proceedings. Whether you can receive legal aid depends on how much you earn and how much money and property you have, though for domestic abuse cases the usual limits do not apply. It also depends on your case and whether you need a solicitor to apply to the court for you. You may have to pay some of the costs. See Can I get legal aid?for more about this.

Some solicitors may tell you that you cannot legal aid if you can use the police instead to protect you or get your partner prosecuted, but this is not true. If you want to apply for a court order to protect yourself from domestic abuse, and need legal aid to do so, the solicitor should help you apply. The application form will ask whether you have reported the matter to the police, but this won't stop you getting legal aid.

If you don't qualify for legal aid, you will have to pay your solicitor out of your own money (or represent yourself). Legal advice and representation can be expensive, so ask your solicitor to give you a realistic estimate of the costs at the start.


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How can I find a solicitor?

You will need a solicitor who specialises in family law and possibly also takes legal aid cases. You can find details of family lawyers in your area from:

  • Find a legal adviser near you
  • the Law Society, which has a Family Law Panel. Solicitors on this panel have to pass an exam and prove they have family law experience, and
  • Resolution, which is an association of specialist solicitors who take a positive approach to family and relationship matters, and try to keep things amicable (friendly or polite).

You may also be able to get advice from your local Citizens' Advice Bureauor Law Centre. 

If you need emergency help because, for example, you have had to leave your home, make this clear when you phone the solicitor's office for an appointment. In some areas, there is a network of solicitors who deal with domestic abuse. If a firm cannot see you straight away, they will pass you on to another firm who can.


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What if I can't get legal aid and I can't afford a solicitor?

The process of applying to court to get protection from domestic violence is meant to be straightforward, so that people can act for themselves. Your local Family Proceedings Court or county court office will be able to give you the forms you need to fill in and a leaflet, 'Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996: How can it help me?' You can also download these forms and the leaflet from the Courts Service website, www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.

If you apply in the county court, you may have to pay the application fee (currently £60). If you are on certain benefits, for example, Jobseeker's Allowance, you won't have to pay. You can fill in a form asking for the fee to be waived, if you are asked to pay but can't afford it.

If you want to take action without using a solicitor, the organisation Rights of Women has a book, 'The Domestic Violence DIY Injunction Handbook', with information and advice. You can order a copy of this through the Rights of Women website, www.rightsofwomen.org.uk.


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