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Getting Free Legal Advice Pt 2: Legal Aid

April 17, 2017

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? In my last post, I showed that needn’t be true of legal advice. Under the Family Legal Advice Service,  you can receive initial legal advice and assistance about your parenting issue, free of charge, from Family Law Results. However, with Legal Aid, things take a slightly different turn. Rather than a free lunch, Legal Aid is probably a case of “eat your lunch now and pay later”.

Whether you are eligible to receive Legal Aid will depend on:

  • Your income;
  • The number of dependents you have – this includes children who do not live with you but for whom you pay financial support such as child support;
  • Your assets; and
  • The type of family law issue you have and the reasons you have for pursuing the issue. Legal Aid is available for most family law issues, including paternity, relationship property, domestic violence and urgent parenting proceedings.

If you want to apply for family Legal Aid, your first step should be to engage a lawyer. Not all lawyers are approved to offer Legal Aid services – you will need one who is an approved Legal Aid Provider in family law. Your lawyer will be able to assess whether you will be eligible to receive Legal Aid and will be able to help you complete the Legal Aid application form.

To apply for Legal Aid, you will need to complete an application form (that your lawyer can give you) and provide your lawyer with:

  • your last three months’ bank statements;
  • proof of your pay or WINZ benefit;
  • a rates notice for any home you may own;
  • proof of your debts (if Legal Aid requests this); and
  • a financial declaration form from any partner or spouse you may have.

Unless your matter relates to domestic violence proceedings, you will also need to pay a $50 user charge to your lawyer.

While you have a grant of Legal Aid, your lawyer will send his or her invoice for work undertaken for you to Legal Aid for payment. However, unless you are seeking assistance for a domestic violence application, Legal Aid will usually require that you repay some or all of the legal costs it pays for you. See what I meant about Legal Aid not being a free lunch? Legal Aid may require you to make automatic payments each week to it. If you sell a home you own or you receive any settlement payment in your legal dispute, you will be required to repay your debt to Legal Aid from the funds you receive. Legal Aid can also charge you interest on your debt.

If you are granted Legal Aid it will be for a very limited amount of funding for each step of your legal matter. It is important to be mindful of this when using the services of your lawyer.

Legal Aid services must be provided by approved lawyers. At Family Law Results, we are approved to provide  Legal Aid for family law matters so give us a call on (09) 297 2010.

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