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Government & legal system

Family/civil Legal Aid: For non-criminal cases

Applying for family/civil Legal Aid

In a family or civil case, it’s up to you to find a lawyer to represent you. This is different from criminal Legal Aid, where you usually get a lawyer assigned to you.

If you don’t already know a lawyer you think is suitable, ask friends or relatives if they can recommend one.

You could also –

  • look on the Law Society’s Family Law Section website www.familylaw.org.nz– click on “Find a family lawyer”, select your region and check “Legal Aid”
  • look in the Yellow Pages (under “Barristers & Solicitors” or “Lawyers”)
  • ask your local Family Court, Community Law Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau or District Law Society for some names.

Usually when people apply for family/civil Legal Aid they get help from a lawyer who they want to have represent them in their case.

Start by contacting a lawyer who you’d like to have represent you. When you talk to them, make sure they’ve been approved to do Legal Aid work for your particular type of case.

The lawyer will have a copy of the Legal Aid application form and will help you fill it in. You can also get the form from the District Court or from a Community Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

Some lawyers answer questions about Legal Aid for free, but you should always check this with the lawyer when you start talking to them.

What to take with you when you go to see a lawyer
  • Any letters or documents to do with your case
  • You should also take all the information you’ll need to provide on your Legal Aid application form (see below).

Who do I apply to?

You send your application for Legal Aid to the Ministry of Justice, the government department that runs the Legal Aid scheme.

For information on how Legal Aid decisions are made, see below, “Qualifying for family/civil Legal Aid: Relevant factors”.

You’ll need to give:

  • the address and phone number where you can be contacted at home and at work
  • your date of birth.

You’ll also need to give details and evidence of your finances –

  • your before-tax income (wages, benefits, ACC etc.)
  • any savings you have
  • the value of any major assets you own, like a house or car
  • any debts you owe (like hire-purchase payments on a fridge)
  • how many dependent children you have.

If you have a partner, you’ll have to give the same financial information about them, on a separate form. This means not just married and civil union couples but also to de facto partners (including same-sex partners).

Your lawyer will fill in the parts of the application form that are about your case and why Legal Aid should be granted for it.

Legal Services Act 2011, s 26

Legal Aid Services will send you a letter, telling you their decision. The letter will also tell you if you have to start paying back the Legal Aid straight away (called “interim repayments”).

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Legal Aid and other legal help

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can give you free initial legal advice, help you apply for Legal Aid and find a Legal Aid lawyer, and may be able to provide ongoing legal help, depending on your situation.

Find a family lawyer

www.familylaw.org.nz/public/find_a_lawyer

This New Zealand Law Society website will help you find a family lawyer in your local area.

Find a Legal Aid lawyer

www.justice.govt.nz/find-a-legal-aid-lawyer

This is an online database of Legal Aid lawyers.

Public Defence Service

www.pds.govt.nz

This website provides information about the Public Defence Service. They can represent defendants in criminal cases where Legal Aid has been granted.

Ministry of Justice

www.justice.govt.nz/courts/going-to-court/legal-aid

Information about Legal Aid and other legal assistance schemes. Legal Aid forms are also available online.

Applying for Legal Aid

www.justice.govt.nz/courts/going-to-court/legal-aid/contact-legal-aid

This page has the Legal Aid forms in PDR versions that you can download and email to Legal Aid.

Phone: 0800 253 425

Legal Aid Tribunal

www.justice.govt.nz/Tribunals/legal-aid/legal-aid-Tribunal

Information about the Legal Aid Tribunal including what types of decisions that can be reviewed, how to apply and what type of information you need to provide.

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