Family law ‘should act in child’s best interests’

Cases of family law in which a child is involved should be pursued in a way that protects the child’s best interests, the Law Society has stressed.

From April 1st 2013, reforms to the legal aid budget mean that it is increasingly likely, in family law cases concerning children, that only the child will qualify for legal aid.

But a High Court ruling of April 9th means legal aid may no longer be available to parents in order to cover the cost of expert witnesses called to give evidence in family law cases.

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of the Law Society, says: “The Legal Services Commission’s position simply results in deadlock.

“The court has first to decide that an expert report is necessary, not just desirable, to help it decide a child’s future.”

However, if nobody is able to cover the cost of the expert’s report, she adds that it will be unable to go ahead – an ‘impasse’ the High Court did not address in its ruling.

The news highlights the value of family law barristers as the effects of the legal aid reforms continue to be felt, in order to allow cases to be pursued in the most appropriate ways under the new regime.