Legal aid is normally available for disputes about children that are urgent or cannot be resolved by counselling or mediation. In some limited cases, legal aid may be available for property disputes between married couples. You can apply for legal aid directly to the Legal Services Commission, or through a private lawyer.
The Legal Services Commission will decide if you are eligible by assessing your financial situation, whether you are likely to win your case and whether it really needs to go to court.
Legal aid is not free. There is a minimum contribution of $20.00 and you may have to pay more depending on your financial circumstances. If legal aid is approved you will get a letter from the Legal Services Commission setting out the conditions of your grant of aid. You should read this carefully as you may, for example, be required to repay your legal expenses if you receive money as a result of a property settlement.
If you have a house or land, the Legal Services Commission can require that a ‘statutory charge’ be applied to that property. This is a charge that is registered on the title of your property as a debt that must be repaid if the property is ever sold or transferred. The Legal Services Commission will not force you to sell your home to pay off a statutory charge.
Even if you do not qualify for legal aid you can get free legal advice from the Legal Services Commission and Community Legal Services.