Legal Aid in Family Law Matters

The services of the Legal Aid Board are operated through law centres located throughout Ireland. Legal services for clients in receipt of legal aid are primarily provided by solicitors employed by the Legal Aid Board (“the Board”) working in these law centres.  In certain instances provision of legal services is outsourced to solicitors in private practice.

To obtain the services of the solicitor in your local law centre you must satisfy the Board’s financial requirements and must satisfy the Board that your case has merit. An applicant applying for legal advice and / or legal aid in a family law matter must undergo a means test. The applicant will be requested to complete a Statement of Means setting out details of their income and details of all assets owned by them. An assessment will be made by the staff in the law centre to establish if the applicant will qualify for legal aid and also to calculate the amount of contribution to the service which must be paid.

The Financial Test

To qualify for legal aid in a family law matter the applicant’s disposable income cannot exceed €18,000 and their disposable capital (excluding their home) cannot exceed €320,000. These figures are reviewed from time to time by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Finance. Disposable income is the applicant’s gross income from all sources less various allowances in respect of accommodation, dependents, mortgage, tax etcetera.

What Contribution is payable?

Legal advice and legal aid is not totally without charge in family law matters and a contribution (normally relatively nominal in the context of the value of the services provided) toward the cost of the service must be paid. The applicant will be advised by the law centre of the amount of the contribution required at the outset.

Legal advice is verbal or written advice given by a solicitor. Legal advice is provided by solicitors in the law centres. The minimum contribution for legal advice is currently set at €10.  Legal aid is representation by a solicitor in court in relation to a family law matter.  The minimum contribution for legal aid is currently set at €50.

How long do you have to wait to see a solicitor?

The Board employs a number of solicitors in its law centres throughout Ireland. Once an application has been received by them, an assessment made and legal aid has been granted the applicant is notified in writing of the decision and the applicant’s name is put on a waiting list. The Board is obliged to provide an applicant a consultation with a solicitor within a number of months from the time their application is approved. Services are also provided by solicitors in private practice in certain emergency cases or where an applicant is on the waiting list for some time. When this situation arises the applicant will be notified by the Board that they are entitled to the services of a solicitor in private practice. The applicant will be provided with a list of solicitors on the panel and they may choose one of the solicitors to act on their behalf. The Board will then correspond directly with that solicitor and notify them that they have been chosen to act on behalf of the applicant. The legal fees due to the solicitor are paid by the Board.

The solicitors in this office are registered as members of the legal aid panel in respect of Family Law matters.

The Nearest Law Centres;

Law Centre, 2nd Floor, North Quay House, Popes Quay, Cork. Telephone: 021-4551 686 and

Law Centre, 1A South Mall, Cork. Telephone 021-4275 998.

This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. No liability is accepted by Hammond Good, Solicitors for any action taken in reliance on the information contained therein. Any and all information is subject to change. For further information on the subject, please contact the author, Joyce A. Good Hammond, at joyce@hgs.ie