Parents and those with parental responsibility are automatically eligible for free Legal Aid funding in care proceedings. This funding is granted regardless of a person’s ‘means’ and ‘merits’. If you have tried to access Legal Aid in private law family proceedings then you are likely to be familiar with these terms. The Legal Aid Agency assess a person’s merits by considering the strength of their case and the proportionality of the cost to the public purse. Means relates to financial eligibility and includes stringent checks of income, capital and assets.

In care proceedings Legal Aid funding usually expires on the making of a final order, at which point a person’s Legal Aid certificate is discharged. Quite often, Care and Placement Orders are made at a Final Hearing, permitting a local authority to place the child(ren) for adoption. Historically, unless parents’ could afford to pay privately for legal advice they would have to satisfy both the means and merits tests in order to access legal advice.

On 1 March 2023, this changed. A parent (or a person with parental responsibility) no longer has to satisfy the means criteria when seeking Legal Aid as a respondent in adoption proceedings. Parents can now avoid the rigorous financial checks, which often act as a barrier to Legal Aid funding. This will be a welcome change to parents who wish to oppose an adoption application by demonstrating sufficient change since the Care and Placement Orders were made.

If you have any questions regarding this article or want to know if you are eligible for legal aid, please contact our legal team on