This guide is intended to assist legal aid providers in determining the cases where it might be appropriate to apply for ECF for family proceedings, and to assist providers in making successful applications for ECF.

Most private family law proceedings were removed from the scope of legal aid by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), along with vast swathes of other areas of law. In response to concerns raised in the consultation prior to LASPO, the Government included provision for funding to be made available in certain cases which would otherwise be outside the scope of legal aid: ECF. Accordingly, funding is available where without it, there would be a breach, or the risk of a breach, of an individual’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, or their rights to legal aid under EU law, principally under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. ECF is only available in cases that are outside the scope of legal aid.  You cannot apply for ECF in cases where legal aid is unavailable because the ordinary means or merits criteria are not met.

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