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Can I Get Legal Aid?

There are two requirements you must meet to get Legal Aid. First, you must fit within Legal Aid’s financial requirements. Second, your legal matter must be one of the types of legal matters that Legal Aid covers.

Do I Qualify Financially?

There is no specific level of income at which you will automatically qualify for Legal Aid. When you apply for Legal Aid, an Intake Worker will compare your assets and your income with your debts and expenses to determine if you have the ability to pay for a lawyer on your own without going into heavy debt. The Intake Worker will also consider the assets, income, debts, and expenses of your spouse and any dependents that you have. 

When assessing your income, the Intake Worker will consider things such as:

  • Salary or wages that you and your spouse receive from employment (or in the case of a youth the income of his/her parents)
  • Rental income
  • Investment income
  • Pension income
  • Workers’ Compensation benefits
  • Employment Insurance benefits
  • Income from spousal support
  • Income from social assistance

When assessing your expenses, the Intake Worker will consider things such as:

  • Basic living expenses for food, clothing, household supplies, and personal items
  • Reasonable amounts for rent, mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and home maintenance
  • Utilities including fuel, hydro, water, and telephone
  • Necessary transportation expenses
  • Necessary medical, dental, and hospital expenses, including the cost of reasonable health insurance policies
  • Life insurance premiums
  • Regular payments made towards a reasonable amount of debts that you incurred before you made your application for Legal Aid

Once the Intake Worker has a picture of what your financial situation is, he or she will determine whether or not you are financially eligible for Legal Aid. If the Intake Worker decides that you are financially eligible, she/he will then determine whether your financial circumstances allow you to pay part of the cost of your legal services or if you may receive legal services at no cost.

You will be required to provide written proof of your financial situation. Legal Aid will be unable to process your application until this is received. So it is important to bring your financial documents (for example: bank statements, rent receipts, credit card bills, etc) when you have an appointment to apply for Legal Aid. All information you provide remains confidential.

Is my Legal Matter the Type That is Covered by Legal Aid?

Legal Aid does not cover all types of legal matters. Once you have been found to qualify financially for Legal Aid, the Intake Worker will pass your application on to a lawyer who will meet with you and make a decision as to whether your case is of a type covered by Legal Aid.

The following is a description of the types of legal matters that Legal Aid will cover if you meet the financial requirements.

Criminal Matters

There are two different types of criminal offences: indictable offences and summary conviction offences. Indictable offences include many of the most serious criminal offences, such as murder and robbery. Summary conviction offences tend to be less serious offences. Most people who are charged with criminal offences are charged with summary conviction offences. Our staff can help you determine what kind of criminal offence you have been charged with.

If you are charged with an indictable offence, Legal Aid will cover your matter provided that you qualify financially.

If you are charged with a summary conviction offence Legal Aid may cover your matter. The lawyer who assesses your application will consider things such as:

  • whether or not there is a likelihood of imprisonment if you are convicted,
  • whether or not you would lose your job if you are convicted, or
  • whether or not you have any special circumstances that make it in the interests of justice that you be represented (for example, if you have a health concern or disability that interferes with your ability to represent yourself).

Based on your individual circumstances, the lawyer will decide whether or not Legal Aid will cover your matter.

Young Offenders

If you are a youth, aged 12 to 17, Legal Aid will cover your criminal matter whether it is an indictable offence or a summary conviction offence provided you qualify financially.

Family Matters

Family matters include legal disputes that arise because of changes within family relationships.

Legal Aid usually covers family matters that include separation, divorce, and child custody and access.

Legal Aid will sometimes cover other family matters (such as child support, spousal support, or matrimonial property) when they come up in the context of a separation, divorce, or child custody and access dispute. Such other family matters may also be covered in special circumstances. The office where you apply will decide, based on your individual circumstances, whether or not Legal Aid will cover such a matter.

Legal Aid may cover your legal services if you are a parent whose child has become subject to an application from the Director of Child, Youth, and Family Services.

Traffic Tickets

Legal Aid will only be available for traffic offences in the following circumstances:

  • if there is a likelihood of imprisonment if you are convicted on your ticket,
  • if you risk losing your employment if you are convicted on your ticket, or
  • if there are other special circumstances that make it in the interests of justice that you be represented.

The lawyer who assesses your application will decide, based on your individual circumstances, whether or not Legal Aid will cover your traffic ticket matter.

Other Civil Law and Administrative Tribunal Matters

Legal Aid is available for administrative matters. Whether a particular application can be approved will depend on the specific facts of that case.

Generally, if a person qualifies financially, Legal Aid is available for administrative matters such as Workers Compensation appeals, Mental Health Review Board, Employment Insurance appeals, Canada Pension Benefit appeals, and Social Assistance appeals.

Under the Legal Aid Act matters related to accidents and civil claims for damages are not matters which Legal Aid Act will cover.

Immigration and Refugee Matters

Legal Aid is available for refugee claimants who are facing hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Legal Aid may be available for individuals facing problems relating to their immigration status in Canada. The Area Director of the office where you apply will decide, based on your individual circumstances, whether or not Legal Aid will cover your Immigration matter.