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Public investment in private problems: legal aid and the family justice system

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This paper examines findings from the Legal Aid Board Research Unit's Case Profiling Study in the light of the current reform programmes for both legal aid and family law. The findings relate to over 650 legally aided family cases including divorce, separation, ancillary relief and Children Act 1989 applications. The main aim of the study was to gain a better understanding of what is currently funded by the legal aid fund. Costs have been related to stages of cases and to the strategies employed by solicitors. Finally, I comment on the future role of legal aid in family law, suggesting that, to a large extent, public investment will be maintained. Remuneration of service providers will evolve as systems of contracting are introduced in January 2000. There will be continued emphasis on family mediation as an alternative method of dispute resolution. However, cases involving issues relating to children and their welfare will remain within the scope of public support. Domestic violence and other emergency issues will also merit high priority. Although there will be extensive changes in other areas of legal aid, family law appears to remain relatively unscathed.
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Keywords: BLOCK CONTRACTING; FAMILY LAW REFORM; LEGAL AID REFORM; MEDIATION; THE 'FUNDING CODE'

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Legal Aid Board Research Unit, London

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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