If you are unable to resolve your legal problem on your own and cannot afford a lawyer, you may be eligible for a ‘grant of legal assistance’.
Grants of legal assistance are usually for criminal or family matters, but they can also be given in some other matters such as guardianship, infringements, immigration, social security, mental health or discrimination cases.
A grant may pay for some or all of the following types of work:
- legal advice.
- helping you resolve matters in dispute.
- preparing legal documents.
- representing you in court.
Who can get a grant of legal assistance
Funds are limited and demand for legal services is high, so Legal Aid has very clear rules about who can get a grant of legal assistance. This means that our money goes to help people who need us the most.
When considering if you are eligible for a grant, we look at:
- what your case is about.
- the likely benefit to you.
- if helping you can benefit the public.
- your financial situation using a means test.
The means test applies to most adults and takes into account:
- money you get from work, welfare benefits or other sources.
- if you own anything of value, like a house or car.
- your weekly living expenses.
The means test also looks at whether you support anyone else, or if they support you. These people are called ‘financially associated persons’ and their income and assets are included when we work out if you are eligible for a grant.
Applying for a grant of legal assistance
You need to fill out a Grants of legal assistance: guide and application form – we can assist you with completing this application.
The form has questions about your legal problem and your financial situation to help Legal Aid determine if you can get a grant of legal assistance.
You will also need to provide documents to support your application, including:
- proof of your income, such as a recent payslip, health care card or Centrelink benefit statement.
- bank or credit union account statements for the last three months.
If you financially support anyone else or if someone financially supports you, you will also need to provide proof of income and bank statements relating to these ‘financially associated persons’.
Applications are usually processed by Legal Aid within five (5) working days…
If you get a grant
If you are eligible for a grant of legal assistance you will send a letter from Legal Aid explaining to you:
On the application form you have the choice to nominate if you would like all other correspondence from Legal Aid sent to your postal address, email address or to us.
There may be a limit to how much money is available to pay for your case – this is called a ‘cost ceiling’.
It is important that you understand these limits. If the cost ceiling is reached before your case is over, you may have to:
- finish the case without our help.
- apply for further assistance.
You can ask us how much money is left at any stage.
General terms of a grant
By accepting the offer of a grant of legal assistance, you also agree to the general terms and conditions of the grant, and any special conditions that are explained in the letter you get from us.
These terms include:
- You must tell us immediately if any of your circumstances change while you are getting legal assistance from us.
- You allow your lawyer to give us any information we need to carry out our functions under the Legal Aid Act 1978.
- Your lawyer must tell us if they receive any money on your behalf.
- Any costs you receive must be paid to us (however, this does not apply to damages).
We may stop or change your legal assistance if you do not follow the:
- terms and conditions of your grant.
- advice of your lawyer.
You may have to pay some or all of the costs of your case up to that point.
Contributions and charges
Legal assistance is not always free. You may be asked to:
- pay some money towards the cost of running your case – this is called a contribution.
- agree to a charge over any house or land you own or are buying.
This will be explained in the letter. The amount you might have to pay depends on your financial situation.
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