Legal Aid is available for many family law matters, and in some circumstances for child support applications.
The Legal Aid Commission has a focus on Dispute Resolution. Therefore, in most cases, a grant will initially be provided for the parties and their legal practitioners to attend a family law conference. In some cases, conferences are not appropriate (such as where there is violence, urgency or immediate risk).
See the section on Mediations and Conferences for more information.
Eligibility for Legal Aid
In assessing whether a person will be eligible for legal aid, three tests are applied:
- Means test – the applicant for aid and any partner (De Facto or spouse) must have less than a certain amount of income per week
- Asset test – an applicant for legal aid, with no dependents, must have less than a certain level of assets in their name. There are criteria applied to this test which are varied from time to time, so please ask for assistance and we can advise the current asset test amount. Some assets are not taken into account including furniture, clothing, tools of trade and equity (i.e. the value less any debt) in a motor vehicle of up to a certain amount. There is also a criterion for equity in the home if one party is seeking to retain the premises and purchase the other party’s interest.
- Merit test – proceedings are only funded if they have merit. For Conferencing the only test is whether there is a real dispute, for Court proceedings there are additional tests.
Verification of Means and Assets
Before any application for Legal Aid will be assessed the Commission needs verification of means and, at least:
- A letter from Centrelink setting out benefits received and the level of payment
- Wage slips or a letter from any employer showing all income for the last two months
- Copies of bank statements for all accounts showing all transactions for the last three months.
It is always helpful if these documents can be provided immediately. This eliminates the most common cause for delay in decisions being made to grant or refuse aid.
All grants of aid are subject to the payment of a Legal Aid Contribution. Each person who receives a grant of legal aid will be subject to a minimum compulsory contribution of $75. The Commission can also levy additional contributions, on a sliding scale, depending upon the income and assets of an applicant.
The Commission can also review contributions at any time and usually at the conclusion of the matter. If money or property are received at the conclusion of the matter then a determination is made by the Commission and the contribution usually increased to 100% of the cost of the proceedings.