The Ridiculous Truth of Legal Aid Changes.

Today would have been my wedding anniversary. That’s not a hugely relevant point other to say that at almost exactly this point in time 7 years ago I was in my beautiful dress in a vintage Rolls Royce and not thinking for a second how I would meet legal costs in the case of a divorce; I didn’t marry my ex with my escape route already planned. I thought we’d stay together. I guess that’s my starting point.
For the two years following that wedding day I changed, I was constantly put down, told I wasn’t good enough, told I was embarrassing, told how to dress, how to act, how to think. Any protest from me was met with my ex getting teary and threatening suicide ‘just like your dad’ and me turning into a guilt ridden and terrified mess. A year and a month after my wedding day my son was born. This gave my ex yet more power to control me. He’d dictate who my son could see, he’d criticise my parenting, he’d even criticise how he imagined I’d parent in years to come. I was made to feel like an inconvenience yet always with the caveat that he loved me (& that no one else EVER would) almost said resentfully as if I bewitched him.
A year on from my son’s birth we broke up. A messy complicated break up which culminated in him assaulting me. To this day I’ve never feared for my life as much as I did in this period.
I obtained a restraining order but this didn’t curb my ex’s behaviour. He spread toxic lies to my friends and family, he reported me to the police twice stating that our son was at risk, he sent me a terrifying email that led to sleepless nights of me listening for the slightest noise in the house as I was convinced he would break in and rape me. I wouldn’t take the same route home from nursery two days in a row, I didn’t go out if it wasn’t necessary. I was scared.
After a while the initial terror lessened slightly, the general abuse didn’t. There are too many incidents to list but over the last 4-5 years I’ve been subjected to constant claims that I had ruined his life, threats of suicide, name calling, power trips, malicious behaviour, threatening my friends, threatening me with his money and power and feeling arrogantly confident that he will evict me from the family home, not through any need but because he can.
It’s been horrible. Constant stress, tears, fear, the last two years being so unwell with stress & anxiety that I lost my career.
Now we are finally divorcing. I wanted to do it sooner but every time I talked about beginning proceedings he would manipulate me or threaten me and so I’d hold back. I am currently on ESA and therefore have a very low income and yet I got refused legal aid because I can’t ‘prove’ abuse in the last two years. The legal aid agency letter which turned me down accepted that I had been subject to domestic violence, it’s not that they disbelieved me it’s just that it wasn’t recent enough. So I don’t qualify and the abusive ex’s assertion that he has more money for legal advice and therefore will ‘hang me out to dry’ seems to be true. And I’m left with the feeling that if only I’d not felt too weak to stand up and divorce him sooner or hadn’t felt guilty for leaving him and therefore tried to show compassion on delaying divorce proceedings that I wouldn’t find myself in this position.
Well done government, seriously well done.