On Thursday, 2 February, the Saeima adopted in the third and final reading amendments to the State Ensured Legal Aid Law, which provide that henceforth Latvian nationals living abroad will be able to obtain state funded legal assistance in solving legal disputes abroad pertaining to child custody rights (temporary or permanent revocation).
The amendments provide that the state will cover the legal assistance expenses for Latvian expatriates as well as representation in court or a relevant institution, whose decision is being appealed, if the local legislation does not provide for court proceedings in such cases. Legal representation will be paid for, if, after a consultation, the legal counsel abroad considers the representation services effective and necessary.
The state of Latvia will pay for legal assistance for those expatriates who are not eligible to obtain state appointed legal counsel in the country of residence. Financing from Latvia will be available in cases when there is no legal assistance system in place in the country of residence or if legal assistance is not provided for the relevant category of the case. Furthermore, Latvian financing will also be available if the appointed legal counsel abroad has found that provision of legal assistance in the case is not expedient or if provision of legal assistance is not possible due to reasons outside the control of the Latvian national.
To receive financial assistance, a request needs to be submitted to the Legal Assistance Administration.
According to the Ministry of Justice, legal difficulties related to child custody rights are mostly experienced by Latvian nationals residing in Ireland, the UK, Germany and Norway.
Likewise, the amendments introduce state funded legal assistance in administrative cases. State funded lawyers will be assigned at the discretion of the court, based on the financial situation of the individual and the complexity of the case in question. According to the estimates of the Legal Assistance Administration, assistance will be provided to approximately 30 cases a year.
The amendments will come into force as of 1 March 2017, while the chapter on the state funded legal assistance to Latvian expats will come into effect on 1 April 2017.
Saeima Press Service