When the emotional and health costs of maintaining a dead marriage become too great for one or both parties to bear, the search for appropriate legal help is inseparable from the search for the means to pay for it.
The first question for someone who is not working, or who is working on a low wage or who is on benefits, is to establish whether the firm he or she consults undertakes legal aid work. For divorce proceedings alone there is no legal aid. There is advice and assistance under what is called the Green Form scheme. Advice involves the steps described below and essentially it requires the petitioner to take documents prepared by the solicitor to the court, documents issued in the name of the petitioner rather than the solicitor. The Green Form scheme, like the legal aid scheme, is administered by the Legal Aid Board, a body independent of solicitors. Eligibility for Green Form advice and assistance depends, like legal aid itself, on a capital and income test. The capital limit is £1,000 if the client has no dependants, rising to £1,535 if he or she has two dependants. It is available to people whose disposable income—allowing for deduction of income tax, national insurance and income support allowances for children and dependent relatives—is less than £70 per week. No contribution is payable for Green Form advice.
The form for advice and assistance is completed at the first interview. Its scope enables the solicitor to do £137.25 worth of work, which at Green Form rates means three hours at £45.75 per hour. The solicitor should be able to take instructions about the history of the marriage, draft a divorce petition, help complete a legal aid application for any proceedings in relation to money or children or in relation to any injunction proceedings which it