By Lois Avery
Couples could soon need to take out marriage insurance after government ministers warned that legal aid for divorce cases could be scrapped.
As part of plans to shake up the UK legal system, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke wants to scrap legal aid for divorce lawyers, so anyone who wants to protect themselves following a marriage breakup will have to pay for their court fees.
The plan could see brides and grooms opting for marriage insurance in a bid to cover the cost of divorce should their relationship fall apart later down the line.
The reform is one aspect of a mass shake up of Britain’s legal system, with the government also planning to:
• Scrap legal aid for claims against hospitals and schools
• Withdraw support from actions by prisoners and welfare benefit disputes
• Cut lawyers’ payments in no-win no-fee cases
“It cannot be right that the taxpayer is footing the bill for unnecessary court cases which would never have even reached the courtroom door, were it not for the fact that somebody else was paying,” Clarke said.
“I propose to introduce a more targeted civil and family scheme which will discourage people from resorting to lawyers whenever they face a problem, and instead encourage them to consider more suitable methods of dispute resolution.”
At the moment, anyone with assets worth less than £8,000 is eligible for legal aid but the new system means anyone with assets worth more than £1,000 will have to pay at least £100 towards their legal costs.
However, the Citizens Advice Bureau says this will exclude those most in need from access to justice.
Gillian Guy, chief executive at the Citizens Advice Bureau, says: “Every year thousands of our clients need help from civil legal aid services at moments of real need. We know from the experiences of our clients how difficult it can be for some people to access to the legal help they need.
“ If people can't access legal help, the consequences can be dire - spiralling debt, homelessness, family breakdown, domestic violence, depression.”
But the government is backing the proposals on the grounds that it will save £350 million over the next four years as part of their spending cuts.