Applying for prior authority in family cases

There can be confusion regarding when you should apply for prior authority for a disbursement in family cases. The LAA’s position is set out in their Expert Witness Fees Guidance Document and the main points are set out below.

Prior authority must be obtained when you seek to instruct an expert who will charge a higher hourly rate than the codified rates in the Remuneration Regulations. If this is not obtained then the LAA won’t pay at the higher rate.

Other than that prior authority can be used if either of the following circumstances apply:

  • The disbursement is ‘either unusual in nature or is unusually large’
  • An expert is to be instructed and there are no codified rates for that type of expert

For the purposes of above the LAA define ‘unusual’ or ‘unusually large’ to be one of the following:

  • The cost is greater than £5,000 per funded client or the number of hours quoted is higher than those in the table below. These figures are not a cap on what the expert can claim they are simply the threshold for when prior authority can be applied for.

  • There is an unequal apportionment between the parties in private law cases. Unequal apportionment may not be unusual in public law cases (e.g. if a party is intervening and has limited involvement). Further details on the rules regarding apportionment in public law cases can be found  here

Details of expert rates (and the table shown above) can be found in our free legal aid quick guide.