Woman settles action over refusal of legal aid for family law case
Posted on 30th June 2021 at 21:36
Mother said legal aid was turned down because Housing Assistance Payment was classed as income
A woman who wants to bring family law proceedings against her allegedly violent former partner has settled her High Court challenge over the Legal Aid board’s refusal to fund her action.
The mother of two, who is on social welfare payments, had claimed her application for legal aid was turned down because she gets the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
That payment was classified in her application to the board as income and took her above the threshold to qualify for legal aid.
She claimed the decision was wrong and breached her rights. However, her judicial review proceedings against the board, with the Minister for Justice as a notice party, has settled.
The settlement arose after the Department of Justice announced last month that HAP and other social housing supports including Rental Accommodation Scheme, Rent Supplement, Mortgage Interest Supplement and Rent Allowance, are now excluded from the calculation of entitlement to legal aid.
The woman, represented by lawyers for Community Law & Mediation, which offers legal services to the disadvantaged, argued the board’s decision was wrong and should be quashed. Previously the court heard the woman had been in a relationship with the children’s father for many years.
That relationship, she claimed, was marred by domestic violence and eventually broke down, resulting in her having to go to a women’s refuge.
The woman and children later moved into rented accommodation. She wants to bring family law proceedings against her former partner regarding issues over their former home and maintenance payments. She claimed she lacked the means to pay lawyers and applied for legal aid. When the Legal Aid Board assessed her application, it included her HAP payment as income. That put her above the financial threshold for legal aid and the board’s refusal of aid was confirmed following an internal appeal.
In her challenge, the woman claimed the board failed to take into account her lack of means to meet the cost of litigation against her former partner or to the fact the HAP is paid to the landlord and is a form of social housing support, and not income.
The woman secured permisison to bring her challenge from the High Court earlier this year but, after talks, the matter was formally resolved between the parties.
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