Legal Aid WA offers free or low-cost legal services to the community, ranging from one-off advice for a legal issue to ongoing representation.
If your case is complex or has special requirements, it is possible that Legal Aid WA will give a grant for a lawyer to do the ongoing work relating to your legal problem. This may be a lawyer from Legal Aid WA or a solicitor from private practice.
Legal Aid will also assess your eligibility for a grant according to the below three “tests”:
- Means test
- Merit test
- Matter test
These three “tests” are explored in more detail below.
The means test
When assessing an application for a grant, Legal Aid WA will consider whether you are financially eligible for a grant or whether you could afford to hire your own lawyer. They will take into account the legal services you need, how long the matter will take, and how much income (called “spare income”) you could save over that period.
You may be eligible for a grant if your spare income would not be enough to meet the full costs of hiring a private lawyer. If it is assessed that you would have some capacity to pay, Legal Aid will normally require you to make some contribution towards the cost of the lawyer.
The merits test
To pass the merits test, Legal Aid must be satisfied that it is reasonable for them to provide legal assistance to you. They will consider the likelihood and prospects of success, whether there are any other non-legal alternatives that could be adopted to resolve the matter, and whether it is an appropriate use of Legal Aid’s limited resources to grant funding to you.
The matter test
Due to limited funding, not everyone can receive a grant for a lawyer. Grants are limited to matters concerning family law, criminal law or civil law matters. In terms of family law, your legal problem would need to concern one of the following to be eligible:
- Applications for parenting orders in the Family Court of WA;
- Protection and care matters in the Children’s Court;
- Restraining Order applications involving family violence; or
- Family Dispute Resolution conferences about children or property issues.
For more information about the matters which Legal Aid can provide grants for, please see the Legal Aid Eligibility Guidelines.
Other assistance from Legal Aid
If you are not eligible for a grant, Legal Aid offers other assistance that may be able to help you with your family law matter. You can obtain help from Legal Aid WA in different ways, including:
- Calling the Infoline telephone service on 1300 650 579 for legal information and referrals;
- Seeking assistance from a duty lawyer at Court, including for Parenting and children’s issues at the Family Court of WA or protection and care cases in the Children’s Court;
- Making an appointment with Legal Aid WA to meet with a lawyer and receive legal advice;
- Using the Infochat service available on the Legal Aid website.
If you would like more information, please contact Legal Aid on 1300 650 579 or visit their website www.legalaid.wa.gov.au or get in touch with our team here at Joss Legal. We are proudly members of Legal Aid Western Australia panels.
Author: Emma De Giorgio