At Shanahan Family Law, we understand the complexities and challenges that can arise in family law matters. While we are dedicated to offering insights and information to support you, it’s important to clarify that we do not provide legal aid services. We recommend contacting Legal Aid Queensland to find a suitable lawyer if you require legal aid. Our primary goal is to give you valuable knowledge to navigate your family law journey.
For those already feeling the financial pressures of an unplanned baby, recent separation, or divorce, legal aid is a lifeline that can help. Sunshine Coast family law legal aid is there to help people with their family law matters in tough times. Legal Aid Queensland provides access to justice for disadvantaged Queenslanders in family, civil and criminal law areas subject to means, merits, and guidelines tests.
- Legal aid on the Sunshine Coast offers essential support for individuals facing financial challenges due to circumstances like unplanned pregnancies, separations, or divorces.
- Individuals must meet specific criteria to qualify for legal aid, including a means test, funding guidelines, and often a merits test.
- The Commonwealth Funding Guidelines for Family Law cover 19 case types, prioritising urgent matters related to child safety, civil law issues, and specific criminal law proceedings.
- Exceptional circumstances guidelines allow for exceptions in cases where individuals face multiple disadvantages, such as domestic violence or disabilities.
- The Merits Test assesses the potential success of a case, considering factors like the likelihood of success and the justification for using public funds.
What is legal aid?
Legal aid is free legal assistance provided by the government. It provides access to legal services for low to middle-income people who cannot afford or access it otherwise. There is a legal aid commission in every state and territory in Australia.
In Queensland, Legal Aid Queensland provides these services.
Legal Aid Family Lawyer Maroochydore is supporting you in tough times
Legal Aid Queensland in Maroochydore Sunshine Coast is an independent legal service provider of specialist family law advice and representation. On their website, their purpose says, ‘We give legal help to financially disadvantaged people about criminal, family and civil law matters. We are committed to providing a quality service to all our customers, as outlined in our service charter.’
Legal Aid Factsheets
Legal Aid Queensland provides many resources and factsheets.
The Legal Aid Factsheets are a series of concise, easy-to-read fact sheets that provide information on topics such as legal aid eligibility, rights, and how to get help.
The Australian Government Department of Social Services and Family Support has funded Legal Aid Queensland since 1993. The Legal Aid Queensland website contains a range of information on legal aid, including the Legal Aid Factsheets and other information about the legal aid system. They are available in both hard copy and online.
Below is a current version of the Legal Aid Queensland factsheet:
6 Legal Aid Questions for Family Law
1. Can I qualify for legal aid?
To gain access to legal aid, you must apply for a grant if you want a legal aid family lawyer to represent you in court. Qualifying for legal aid is not easy. Some of the requirements can be complex, such as being of low income or having limited assets.
2. How do I qualify for a legal aid family lawyer?
Legal Aid Queensland uses strict criteria when granting aid for legal representation to ensure they use their funding to help those most in need.
- A means test;
- Funding guidelines based on the priorities set by the QLD Government;
- In most cases, a merits test.
The means test is the easiest of these three. It only applies to individuals who lack assets or cannot pay for legal assistance. Before considering legal representation, your eligibility to receive government support is the first consideration. The next step is to consider the funding guidelines and, if required, a merits test.
They recommend receiving legal advice before applying for a legal aid family lawyer grant.
3. How does the Means Test work?
Most legal aid grants require applicants to qualify first, which meets a means test. The means test evaluates your income and assets, whether you financially support a partner or children or if another person supports you, to determine your eligibility for legal aid. You must have an urgent reason for legal help to apply for legal aid. You are not eligible if you are just curious about your legal rights or if your problem is not legal.
4. What are the 19 Commonwealth funding Guidelines for family law?
The Commonwealth Funding Guidelines for Family cover 19 types of cases Legal Aid Queensland can fund based on the priorities set by the State and Federal governments. Some of the priorities are:
- Family law, such as urgent matters where a child’s safety or welfare is at risk. The child’s safety is at risk when they face removal from Australia or relocation to a remote Australian area. Separate representation of children, parenting plans and orders, location and recovery orders, and injunctions relating to family violence;
- Civil law includes Child protection proceedings, Domestic and Family violence matters, and Discrimination matters;
- Criminal law includes District and Supreme Court criminal proceedings, Indictable offences in the Children’s Court (these are serious offences), appeals to the Court of Appeal or High Court, Magistrates Court committal hearings where the maximum penalty is more than 14 years in jail and Bail applications;
- Assisting with Parenting Orders.
These are just a few of the 19 types of cases legal aid can fund. If in doubt, call our office for more information.
5. What if I have exceptional circumstances?
Applicants who usually would not meet the means test but deserve special consideration because they might experience multiple disadvantages can observe the guidelines. When you suffer domestic violence, live remotely, have a disability, or have other disadvantages, you may receive a legal aid grant via the special circumstances’ guidelines. The special circumstances guidelines relate to assets only. A condition may be attached to any grant of aid approved under the special circumstances guidelines. For example, you may need to pay a contribution towards your legal costs or provide your property as security to pay these legal costs to Legal Aid Queensland.
6. How does the Merits Test work?
The Merits Test looks at the legal and factual merits of the case. Is the case more likely to succeed or fail if it goes to court? Would a sensible person risk their money taking the case to court if the applicant’s benefit from having a lawyer justifies spending limited public funds on their case?
As of 14 December 2015, to qualify for the Merits Test, you must pass these three tests:
- The Reasonable Prospects of Success test;
- The Prudent Self-Funding Litigant test; and
- The Appropriateness of Spending Limited Public Legal Grants of Legal Assistance Funds test.
It is applied to applications for a grant of legal assistance unless otherwise specified in this Policy Manual.
When a person applies for a grant, the merits test applies to all the cases they apply for, not just one case. If it is satisfied with a case, it will proceed to court. If a person applies for more than one grant, the Merits Test only applies to one case unless they have two or more cases similar enough to each other.
Family law matters on the Sunshine Coast can be overwhelming, especially during personal challenges like unplanned pregnancies or separations. It’s important to note that while we provide insights and information, Shanahan Family Law does not offer legal aid services. Fortunately, Legal Aid Queensland in Maroochydore provides specialised advice and representation to those who need it.
They also have strict criteria to ensure that assistance is given to those who deserve it based on financial and case merits. Legal Aid Factsheets are among the resources available to help simplify the complex legal system for the average person. Remember, institutions like Legal Aid Queensland are dedicated to making justice accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial situation.
The above information is intended to be general advice only and is not a substitute for personalised advice. Because it does not consider your individual circumstances, it is not intended to be relied upon, and any loss or damage arising from any such reliance is disclaimed. Any financial or legal decisions should only occur after you have received tailored advice from a legal or financial professional.