Legal Aid Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Maitland & the Central Coast
We offer some of our legal services to clients on the basis of a grant of legal aid.
Legal Aid NSW determines applications for aid on a merit and means test basis. In most circumstances aid is initially granted to allow the parties and their Solicitors to attend a mediation conference arranged by Legal Aid NSW.
At each stage in the Court process we lodge a report with Legal Aid to advise as to what has happened, remaining issues in dispute and to request an extension of legal aid for the next stage.
Legal Aid is available for parenting disputes and in some limited circumstances, also for property settlement. However, the means and merit test is strictly applied and Legal Aid NSW themselves determine whether or not a grant of aid is made or extended.
If you need help or support with Legal Aid – call us today on 1300 795 946 or Enquire Online. We can help you take control of your situation.
Criminal Law Legal Aid
If you have been issued a Court Attendance Notice by the Police or Centrelink for your attendance in the NSW Local Court, legal aid is available if the following tests are satisfied:
- You meet the means test, which relates to your current financial circumstances; and
- If Legal Aid determine that there are available funds to fund the matter.
Further the offence in which you are charged with must either carry a terms of imprisonment as an available penalty or that there are exceptional circumstances in respect to your matter. The exceptional circumstances can include factors such as you are at a special disadvantage, the matter involves the death of a person, or you are under the age of 18 years.
In processing and assessing the outlined means tests, it may be determined that a grant of aid will be given on the basis that an initial contribution is made. The amount of this initial contribution is assessed based on your means.
If your matter however relates to a drug offence and is to be dealt with in the Drug Court, the only test that needs to be satisfied is the available funds test.
Legal Aid is also available if you are in custody and are wanting to seek bail. Again, you will need to satisfy the means and available funds tests as outlined above. However, if you owe Legal Aid a contribution from a previous matter, a grant will not approved.
If you have been involved in a driving or traffic offence, a grant of Legal Aid may also be available in limited circumstances. However, you will need to satisfy both the above outlined means and available funds tests as well as have no outstanding contribution debt to Legal Aid from a previous matter. There must also be a real possibility of a term of imprisonment or there be other exceptional circumstances.
If your matter proceeds to a defended Hearing, Legal Aid can also be granted in limited circumstances, in particular if there is prospect of success of your defence or if there is a very real possibility that a terms of imprisonment would be awarded if found guilty.
If you support for Criminal Law Legal Aid – call us today on 1300 795 946 or Enquire Online.
Family Law Legal Aid
If you have a family law issue in respect to parenting or property matters in either the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia legal aid may be available.
In most family law matters, Legal Aid will ask you to pay an initial contribution towards the costs of running your matter. This cost is based and assessed on your income and assets. Further when your matter is finalised, Legal Aid can also consider if you are required to pay a further amount towards to costs of running your matter.
Before Legal Aid is granted in a family law you must satisfy the following tests:
- Means Test, in respect to your income and assets;
- That you have no outstanding debts owed to Legal Aid;
- That your matter has merit; and
- Legal Aid have the available funds to fund the matter.
In respect to parenting matters the main issues that arise are who the child will live with, spend time with and communicate with. Legal Aid initially fund approved matters for a Family Dispute Resolution Conference (FDRC), if it is an appropriate matter for mediation. An FDRC allows parents to be able to have the opportunity to discuss and negotiate matters in an attempt to resolve issues. Further it is now mandatory for parents to attempt mediation prior to filing an Application in the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court of Australia.
If you are unable to resolve matters at an FDRC, Aid may be extended to allow an application to be filed in Court. However in addition to the above outlined tests, Legal Aid must be satisfied that there is a dispute about a substantial issue before funding is approved. Further, if one parent is being unreasonable in their requests and negotiations, the grant of aid can be refused or terminated, as it will be deemed their case has no merits, or likelihood of succeeding.
Legal aid in family law matters can also be granted for non-parents, such as grandparents if they satisfy the above outline tests and they are significant to the care, welfare and development of the child and it is the child’s best interests to have a relationship with the grandparent.
If you already have a parenting Order in place, however you wish to vary the Order, or the other parent is not complying with the Order, legal aid can also be obtained to negotiate a variation or seek enforcement of the current Orders.
In respect to property matters, Legal Aid is only granted in limited circumstances. This is primarily due to the act that if there is property to be disputed over, the means test would generally not be satisfied. However there are circumstances whereby you can enter into an agreement to refund the costs of the proceedings out of any settlement funds.
If you would like Family Law Legal Aid support –call us today on 1300 795 946 or Enquire Online.
Independent Children’s Lawyer
Legal Aid NSW provides funding for a solicitor to separately represent a child in complex family law and care and protection matters. The child’s solicitor is then known as the Independent Children’s Lawyer (ICLs).
An ICL is generally appointed by a Judge in matters that involve issues such as abuse, family violence, mental health, and drug and alcohol dependency. An ICL may also become involved in a matter where there is a dispute as to the child’s wishes or where there is a high level of intractable conflict between the parents.
The main roles of an ICL in family law matters are:
- Organise independent and expert evidence to be used in court;
- If the child is of an appropriate age, meet with the child in order to obtain their views and wishes; and
- To help and assist in settlement negotiations between the parents.
The Independent Children’s Lawyer has an obligation to investigate and inform the Court of the current circumstances of the child. This can be done in a number of ways including:
- Speak to the child’s counsellors, school teachers and principals;
- Arrange and examine documentary evidence from the child’s school, Department of Family and Community Services, the police, and medical practitioners; and
- Arrange for a family report from a family consultant.
Once the ICL has gathered all the above evidence they can then decide if they would also like to meet with the child. This will only generally occur if the child is of an appropriate age, for example school age, to obtain their views and wishes.
If the matter progresses to a Hearing, the ICL will then decide if there is a need for an expert report to be completed to help and assist the Court. In such matters, normally a suitably qualified child psychiatrist is appointed to prepare the report, and the ICL will arrange for all the evidence to be provided to the psychiatrist.
During a hearing, the ICLs role is to form a view and makes recommendations as to their views of what Orders would be in the child’s best interest. As the ICL is independent, they are not bound to support the expressed views of the child, if in fact they believe the child’s wishes are not in their ultimate best interests. Further the Court is also not obligated to adopt the ICL’s views in all cases. However due to the independent nature of the ICL, their resulting recommendations are seriously considered by the Court.
If you support with an Independent Children’s Lawyer –call us today on 1300 795 946 or Enquire Online.