How to get free representation in your family case

This page explains where and how you may be able to get a lawyer to come with you to your court hearing (or join your court hearing remotely) about a family issue and speak for you or help you put your case for free. It is often difficult and takes a long time, so start as soon as you can to give yourself the best chance.

Advocate  (formerly named The Bar Pro Bono Unit) can help find you a barrister who can provide you with free advice or representation at court anywhere in England and Wales. They can help with any legal issue as long as you are not eligible for legal aid and don't have enough money to pay for legal help. 

There are two ways to get help: you can be referred by an advice agency (such as a CAB or Law Centre), an MP or practising lawyer or you can apply directly online using their form and uploading your documents with it. You need to send a completed application form at least three weeks before the hearing or deadline for the piece of work you want help with.

Legal help is provided for one piece of work at a time, for example, you could be approved for some free legal advice, and then maybe some free representation depending on the outcome of the advice. Find out more about how it works and find the online form.

Once you have submitted your application, it is assessed by the casework team to make sure there is enough information about your case for a reviewer to decide if you are eligible for free help. The team may ask you for more documents or information if the form is not complete. Once the casework team is satisfied that they have enough information, your application will be sent to a senior reviewer to decide if your case fits the financial and legal merits. If the reviewer decides you are eligible and the work will take three days or less, the Advocate team will start looking for a barrister to help you. Because they rely on volunteers, they cannot guarantee to find someone, but they will do their best. If they can't find someone, they will let you know before your hearing.

Advocate finds barristers to help you with a particular task in your case. They cannot find someone to take a whole case for free. So if your application is successful, you will receive help for that specific task. After that, if you need further help you can apply again, providing at least three weeks' notice. 

If you have not found a service that can help you see our Help Directory or go back to the Going to the family court section.  

April 2020


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