Guidance

Family high cost cases

Care Case Fee Scheme (CCFS), QC/2 Counsel Events, and detailed case plans to use when a legal-aid-funded family case becomes high cost.

When a case becomes high cost

A case becomes high cost when the costs are likely to exceed £25,000.

There are 2 teams managing high cost family cases:

  • Very High Cost Case (VHCC) family team (South Tyneside) - deals with all single and QC/2 counsel/advocate cases in private and public law family matters
  • Exceptional and Complex Case Team (ECCT) family section (London) - deals with all prior authority requests for QC/2 counsel cases in private and public law family matters and all Court of Protection cases. ECCT provides all technical oversight and support to VHCC

All family cases requiring QC or 2 Counsel will require Prior Authority. These should be submitted as an Amendment via CCMS (or APP8 if the case is not being run on CCMS). All requests for prior authority must address sections 1.2 and 1.3 of the Narrative and Guidance: Legal Aid.

Guidance on authorities and legal aid for cases in courts outside England and Wales

You’ll find general guidance on high cost family cases in the Family overview pack (PDF, 455KB, 12 pages) .

There are 2 main methods of costing these high cost family cases:

  • Care Case Fee Schemes (CCFS). Some private law and other child cases which follow a similar fact-finding route and have main hearings over 10 days may qualify for the CCFS scheme (on request and agreed by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA)
  • Detailed (fully costed) case plans used in all other family cases plus care cases that the LAA deem to be exceptional

Care Case Fee Schemes

Overview of CCFS

The CCFS model simplifies case planning. Costs are determined by reference to events (as defined in the Information Packs), which have a set value. There are two variations depending on whether the case is being run with single counsel/ solicitor advocate or Two/ Leading Counsel.

Single Counsel CCFS cases

Upon notifying the LAA that a case is high cost and you confirm the case will be costed using CCFS you will be asked to upload onto CCMS signed High Cost Contract and Counsel Acceptance Forms (where external advocate/s have been used). At the same time, you should submit a cost amendment for £32,500. This will allow you to immediately access cash flow. You must ensure that if counsel is used they are assigned to the case and allocated appropriate funds.

The Information Pack below explains the details of the CCFS. The completed example case plan below will help you fill in the template.

CCFS Information Pack (June 2019) (PDF, 831KB, 25 pages)

CCFS Form (June 2019) (MS Word Document, 134KB)

CCFS form: completed example (MS Word Document, 138KB)

VHCC calculator (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 71KB)

Contract (MS Word Document, 123KB)

Counsel Acceptance Form (MS Word Document, 14.6KB)

A full step-by-step interactive training module has been created demonstrating the process on CCMS. Please click here.

The CCMS Quick Guides are also available here.

If you need to submit an Interim CCFS Form to obtain costs beyond £32,500, submit the CCFS Form without any supporting documentation. Make sure the CCFS Form is fully completed to avoid unnecessary queries. At the conclusion of the case Providers should submit their Final CCFS Form accompanied by a checklist of required information, which will help us reach agreement on final costs. It is important that all documentation requested is provided to avoid delay and re-submission.

Single Counsel Interim FAST checklist (MS Word Document, 39KB)

Single Counsel Final FAST Checklist (MS Word Document, 43.5KB)

QC/2 Counsel CCFS cases

Upon grant of Prior Authority for QC/2 Counsel you will be asked to upload onto CCMS signed High Cost Contract and Counsel Acceptance Forms (where external advocate/s have been used) if you accept the case will be costed using CCFS. At the same time, you should submit a cost amendment for £60,000, where the authority covers a fact finding hearing or composite final hearing. Make sure that if counsel is used they are assigned to the case and allocated appropriate funds.

The Information Pack below explains the details of the QC/2 Counsel CCFS scheme. The completed example below will help you complete the CCFS Form (2 Counsel).

CCFS QC/2 Counsel Model Information Pack (July 2019) (PDF, 630KB, 16 pages)

CCFS Form (2 Counsel) (MS Word Document, 126KB)

Contract (MS Word Document, 123KB)

Counsel Acceptance Form (MS Word Document, 14.6KB)

A full step-by-step interactive training module has been created demonstrating the process on CCMS. Please click here.

The CCMS Quick Guides are also available here.

If you need to submit an Interim CCFS Form to obtain costs beyond £60,000, submit the CCFS Form without any supporting documentation. Make sure the CCFS Form is fully completed to avoid unnecessary queries. At the conclusion of the case Providers should submit their Final CCFS Form accompanied by a checklist of required information, which will help us reach agreement on final costs. It is important that all documentation requested is provided to avoid delay and re-submission.

QC/2 Counsel Interim FAST checklist (MS Word Document, 42.5KB)

QC/2 Counsel Final FAST checklist (MS Word Document, 44.5KB)

Detailed (fully costed) family case plans

Exceptional Care Cases

All single counsel/ solicitor advocate care cases will be paid via CCFS. If a case is considered to be exceptional such that the costs that would be payable under CCFS would not properly remunerate, application may be made at the point of notification that the case is high cost for a detailed case plan to be submitted.

When notifying the LAA that your case is high cost you may find it helpful to use this template (MS Word Document, 24KB) . This will help you to include all relevant information and avoid delay that may be caused by LAA requests for further information.

The criteria for a case to be treated as exceptional are set out in the Information Pack below. In all family cases where CCFS does not apply, a detailed case plan is required at the point of notification that the case is high cost.

These plans set out:

  • description of the case
  • assessment of its prospects
  • legal and factual issues to be investigated and resolved
  • details of costs
  • the selection of counsel and experts used

Full case planning Information pack (PDF, 1.01MB, 23 pages)

Fully costed case plan: family VHCC (MS Word Document, 128KB)

Fully costed case plan: family VHCC - example (PDF, 425KB, 14 pages)

Template case plan (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 398KB)

Fully costed case plan checklist (MS Word Document, 108KB)

Counsel Fees

Fees payable to counsel in family cases under CCFS (both single counsel and 2 counsel) and under a detailed case plan are set out in Payments to counsel.

Where counsel’s fees are calculated on an equivalent basis as FGF and have been requested to supply counsel fees costed using the Family Graduated Fee Scheme as a guide you will need to upload a Claim 5. Please note this is just a document to support the case plan and it is not an actual bill on CCMS. We have developed an FGF fees calculator below, which will assist you in completing the Claim 5 by calculating costs that would be equivalent to the costs that would have been payable under the FGF Scheme.

FGF Calculator (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 174KB)

Counsel Payment on Account Quick Guide

If counsel/counsel’s clerk experience any issues regarding payment, please contact the LAA by email explaining the issue and steps taken to resolve – familyhighcostcounsel@justice.gov.uk

Document Archive

VHCC – Family Cases Information Pack April 2014 v5 (PDF, 743KB, 20 pages)

VHCC – Care Case Fee Scheme Information Pack – 1 Counsel (South Tyneside) April 2014 v3 (PDF, 275KB, 11 pages)

VHCC – Care Case Fee Scheme - Solicitor Advocates Guide April 2014 v2 (PDF, 241KB, 6 pages)

Hourly rate v CCFS flowchart

CCFS information pack (October 2015) (PDF, 685KB, 17 pages)

CCFS form (MS Word Document, 178KB)

CCFS form: completed example (MS Word Document, 138KB)

CCFS form: completed example (MS Word Document, 138KB)

Two counsel case plan (ODT, 99.4KB)

Two counsel case plan example (PDF, 254KB, 7 pages)

CCFS QC/2 Counsel Model Information Pack (June 2019) (PDF, 628KB, 16 pages)

How to contact us

Please note that on all cases being run on CCMS you should submit requests/ submissions via CCMS.

VHCC Family Team (South Tyneside)

VHCC Family Team, Legal Aid Agency
Berkley Way, Viking Business Park
Jarrow NE31 1SF

DX: 742 350 Jarrow 2

Phone: 0300 200 2020

Email: vhcc.queries@justice.gov.uk

ECC Family Section (London)

ECC Family Section, Legal Aid Agency
13th Floor Tower ( 13.52), 102 Petty France
London SW1H 9AJ

DX: 161440 – Westminster 8

Phone:0300 200 2020

Email: contactECC@justice.gov.uk

For Counsel – Email: familyhighcostcounsel@justice.gov.uk

High cost non-family cases for other high cost civil cases.

Published 1 June 2014
Last updated 12 July 2019 + show all updates
  1. Process change has now been reflected with relevant guidance.
  2. Full governance check complete. Guidance updated to reflect process change.
  3. Updated content and guidance.
  4. Information regarding Two/Leading Counsel Events published.
  5. Payments to counsel document updated.
  6. Final Assessment Streamlining Tool for Single Counsel CCFS cases section added.
  7. New address added: DX: 161440 – Westminster 8 Phone: 0203 334 5750 Email: highcostcivil@legalaid.gsi.gov.uk
  8. First published.