Legal Aid Family Law – Do I qualify?
- January 6, 2019
- Jennifer Hetherington
- 3 Comments
Legal Aid – who qualifies for Family Law funding?
Legal Aid funding for family law matters in Queensland is only approved in a limited number of cases. There is simply not enough money to go around.
We understand that when you are considering your options for your family law case, you really want to know whether or not you will obtain legal aid funding. So, we’ve created this post to help you work out whether or not you are likely to succeed.
Legal Aid’s financial (means) test
Legal Aid Queensland has a financial test that has to be met before you can be eligible for legal aid funding. It’s a complex test, so we have broken down the elements of it
Are you on a Centrelink payment (as your sole income)?
If you rely on full Centrelink payments then you will be eligible for the legal aid income test.
If you have other income, then it needs to be less than the maximum income threshold for you to be eligible for legal aid. The maximum income for a sole parent is $1210 per week if you have one child, and increases by $200 per child per week, up to a maximum of $2010 for 5 or more children. If you earn over these amounts, you will not be eligible for legal aid funding.
We’ve prepared a flowchart which hopefully explains this a bit more clearly, using the example of a single parent:
What assets can I own?
If you meet the income test, you also have to satisfy the asset test. If you have:
- more than $146,000 equity in your home (or savings for a home); and/or
- more than $16,000 equity in your car
and the total of all your assets over that amount (including money in the bank, shares etc.) is more than $1880, then, if you are a single parent, you will probably not be eligible for legal aid or will have to pay a contribution towards your family law legal fees.
Again this flowchart makes it a bit easier to understand (using a single parent as an example):
If you satisfy both the income test and the asset test, then the next step is what is called the ‘Merit test’.
What is the Legal Aid Merit Test?
This is not so easy to put into a flowchart, and is one where we really need to talk to you about your family law problem and see if Legal Aid is likely to fund it.
The main thing is that you must have a dispute about a substantial issue with the other party. Even if you or the other party want to go to the Family Court, Legal Aid may only approve you for a Family Dispute Resolution Conference (Mediation) as a first step, unless you meet an exception.
What does Legal Aid NOT fund?
Examples of things that Legal Aid does not usually fund include:
- You and the other party agree who the children should live with
- You want an order to formalise an agreement
- Arguments about school holiday time (unless one parent only has school holiday time)
- Who can be with the children or where they can stay when they are in the other parent’s care (unless there is a safety risk)
- Who has to pay for costs for the children, bedtimes, what the children will eat and other ‘every day’ issues
Legal Aid will only fund a Family Court application if there is a dispute about protecting the child from family violence, abuse or neglect or the child is being denied a meaningful relationship with a parent with whom they are not living.
What is my next step to apply for Legal Aid?
Contact us and let us know your best contact number to talk to you about whether you are likely to qualify for Legal Aid funding for your family law matter.
You will need to be able to answer the financial questions above so please have your answers handy.
We will also need a summary of the family law issues you and the other party are disputing.
More information about family law
Check out our FAQ page for more information about Parenting and follow our Blog for more articles including 9 Tips for Successful Parenting after Divorce, The top 5 things to avoid if you want shared custody, and the implications of Facebook and Family Law.
Please note that the information in this post is general in nature and applicable only to Queensland legal aid applications. You should always seek specific, current advice from a lawyer as Legal Aid guidelines can change over time.