Legal Aid is sometimes the only available financial lifeline for individuals facing life-changing legal consequences.
Whatever the reason for needing Legal Aid services, they must be organized in such a way so that legal assistance can be promptly delivered upon request.
You may be wondering who is eligible to receive Legal Aid and how the process works. Regardless of what you want to know, this article has got you covered.
Defining Legal Aid
Legal Aid is a government scheme that uses public funds to help eligible individuals cover the cost of legal advice, mediation, and representation in a court.
But as helpful as Legal Aid may be, it might not cover all costs. This means you may have to pay parts of the costs upfront or even pay them back after winning property or money from your case.
If you’ve been charged with an offense or arrested then getting professional legal advice as early as you can is essential. After gathering all the necessary information, a legal professional can determine whether you have a strong enough case to be granted Legal Aid.
Who Receives Legal Aid?
To access Legal Aid, you must demonstrate that your capital and income are low, that you have a strong enough case, and that your case can be covered by Legal Aid.
For a lot of disputes between family members and financial disputes after divorce, Legal Aid is only provided to an individual if the evidence is presented to prove that there is some element of risk in a situation. For example, if a child of divorce is at risk of suffering abuse at the hands of the other involved party.
How Does Legal Aid Work?
Making Your Application
You must make an official application to claim Legal Aid. After doing so, you must pass two tests: the Means test and the Interests of Justice (IOJ) test.
This test is completely based on an individual’s financial situation. It considers capital, outgoings, equity, and household income. You will automatically be eligible to pass this test if you’re claiming benefits from the government, have income support, or are homeless. You will also be eligible to pass the means test if you have a low annual income.
Interests of Justice Test
This considers the merits of the individual case, including:
- Previous convictions
- The nature of the offense
- Custody risks
The more serious the situation is, the more likely it will be to qualify the individual for Legal Aid. This is very rarely approved for offenses that don’t have imprisonment as a potential sentence.
Finding Legal Support
To apply for legal aid, you will need to find an attorney who deals with Legal Aid work. This includes personal injury lawyers who may then be able to tell you if you have a claim.
The attorney will then need to fill out some forms with the information that is provided by you. If it’s classed as an emergency then an attorney might be able to provide you with emergency funding before the completion of the forms.
You will need to give your attorney relevant documents to submit with your form, including evidence of your income and savings, to prove that you need Legal Aid.
Applications will usually be processed within a month of submitting your application, provided no issues arise with the forms.
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Delivery of Legal Aid Services
Free Civil Legal Aid services may also be provided in the following ways:
Appointments: individuals can schedule an appointment to speak to Legal Aid attorneys. Some people might qualify for administrative hearings or court representation.
Community Legal Clinics: Staff and volunteer Legal Aid attorneys sometimes hold clinics open for eligible legal service clients. They will provide clients with confidential information about public benefits, employment, and housing.
Do It Yourself Toolkits: Legal Aid organizations provide lots of DIY online tools. This may come in the form of informative and instructional videos, sample letters, fact sheets, legal guides, and legal forms.
Telephone Helplines: Legal aid organizations can also provide confidential advice or information about certain legal issues (such as domestic violence, housing, and public benefits) supported by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and Interest On Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA).
Legal Aid can be a great financial help for individuals with a low income. It can work to lessen the financial burden and make life easier for the individuals that require the intervention of legal assistance.