Can you get Legal Aid?
Generally speaking Legal Aid discriminates against men and prefers to give help to women and visible minorities
For some time now, most men could get not Legal Aid for family law or domestic violence matters. This may still be the case. Do not count on fairness if you are a man in family law or especially if you are charged with Domestic Violence. Men are automatically guilty as accused of DV no matter what the law says. Women almost always get off.
Much of this page is adapted from an Ontario Legal Aid brochure. The information here generally applies in all provinces across Canada.
- Here is what the Ontario Legal Aid office says:
- "Legal Aid offers different kinds of help, depending on your legal problem. You may need a lawyer to go to court with you, or you
may just need some advice or some assistance with court documents.
- "You may be able to get Legal Aid to pay for a lawyer if:
- "You have little or no money left after you pay for basic necessities, like food and housing, and your legal problem is one that Legal Aid covers
- "People with no income or on social assistance almost always qualify financially for Legal Aid. But you may be able to get Legal Aid even if you have a job and own a house.
- " Legal aid staff will look at your personal financial circumstances to decide if you qualify. Every situation is different. It all depends on your family responsibilities and your monthly expenses. "
How to get Legal Aid assistance.
Legal Aid is intended to make sure that people who do not have money to pay a lawyer can still have access to the justice system.
Even if you own a house, have a "good" job you may still qualify for Legal Aid to cover all or part of your legal bills.
Do not assume you do not qualify. Apply and let Legal Aid tell you.
How you you apply for Legal Aid?
Call and make an appointment if possioble. Then go to your local Legal Aid office and speak
to a staff person.
What do you need to bring with you?
- some form of identification such
as your social insurance card, driver's licenser. birth certificate or landed immigrant papers.
- any documents relating to your case, such as court orders. separation agreements
- proof of income if you have any (3-4 recent pay stubs, welfare cheque stubs or employment
- proof of monthly expenses and bills (rent receipt, mortgage payment,
hydro, gas, car payment receipts of canceled cheques, credit card statements, car insurance
- deed for your house.
How long does it take?
Normally it takes two or three weeks to process your application.
Your lawyer cannot officially start working on your file until s/he has a Legal Aid
Make sure to tell Legal Aid staff if your situation is an emergency. The staff
will help your fill out an application and may be able to tell you right away whether you can
get Legal Aid. If you already have a lawyer, Legal Aid will mail the certificate directly to
your lawyers. If you do not have a lawyer, you contact one while you wait for your
It takes two or three weeks to get a Legal Aid certificate. If you will require Legal Aid, apply for it promptly. The process can take time and your lawyer cannot start work on your case until you have a Legal Aid Certificate.
Apply As Soon As Possible:
If you think you are eligible for Legal Aid, you should apply as soon as possible.
If and when approved, take your Legal Aid certificate to the lawyer of your choice.
While there are rules about who may qualify and under what circumstance, the Legal Aid plan has the "right" to change the rules at any time and often does.
Budget constraints, political considerations and the women's rights movement have enormous impact on how Legal Aid officials conduct themselves and on deciding who gets Legal Aid and who does not. Mothers can usually get Legal Aid for family law matters when fathers in the same circumstances cannot.
Although not all lawyers accept Legal Aid, a majority do.
Do you qualify for Legal Aid?
You may be able to get Legal Aid to pay for a lawyer if:
The Legal Aid office will look at your personal financial circumstances to decide if you
qualify. Every situation is different. It all depends on your family responsibilities and your
- Your legal situation is urgent and serious and you have little or no money left after you pay for
the necessities like food and housing.
People with no income of on social assistance usually qualify financially for Legal Aid. You
may be able to get Legal Aid even if you have some money in the bank and/or a house.
What kind of cases are covered?
If you qualify financially, Legal Aid may be able to pay
your lawyer for some of these things. This is not a complete list. Please talk to you Legal Aid
office about your specific case.
Do you have to pay anything?
- For Criminal Charges
- any offense which likely
result in jail time (e.g. assault, impaired driving causing bodily harm, robbery, welfare fraud,
break and enter
- In Family Matters:
- to get custody of your children or to change custody
- to get a restraining order against your partner
- to remove your partner from your home,
in cases of physical abuse.
- to establish or to change support payments for you and your
- to establish access to your children where no arrangements have already been made
- to help with custody and access rights if your partner is likely to move far away so you
can't see your children to threatens to take your children away from you
- to help if your
partner denies you access to your child
- to change access from supervised to non-supervised
- to stop your partner from selling or destroying your property
- to negotiate property
issues, including RRSP's and pensions
- In Immigration and refugee matters
hearings before the Immigration and refugee Board
- sponsorship appeals
appeals and submissions to the Minister of Immigration for deportation appeals
- For Other
- Workers' Compensation
- mental health hearings and appeals
hearings and appeals
- damage claims
Legal aid is
usually free to people with little income or money. People who have a little money but not
enough to hire a lawyer may have to pay some money
If you do have to pay, you will be asked
to sign a Payment Agreement which says that you agree to:
What if you are turned down for Legal Aid?
- pay Legal Aid a certain
amount every month: or
- pay Legal Aid a lump sum of money; or
- have a lien put on your
house or property. The lien says that you will pay Legal Aid back when you sell or refinance
your house, when you renew the mortgage on your house or within five years, whichever comes
You can appeal. If you are turned down for legal
aid. you can go back to the Legal Aid office and ask to fill out an appeal form. After you have
filled out the appeal form, you will get an appointment to speak to the area committee, usually
in about two or three weeks. You have to tell the committee, which is usually a group of three
lawyers, why you are appealing the decision.
Where else can you get help? If you do not qualify for Legal Aid, Community Legal Clinics may
be able to help you. The clinics have lawyers and trained legal workers to give you advice and
represent you. These clinics usually deal with housing, (landlord and tenant) social assistance
(welfare), pension, Worker's Compensation, employment insurance and immigration and employment
rights issues. You will have to complete a financial test to make sure you qualify for their