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Help with a legal problem

If you have a problem, you may need legal advice to resolve it. You can get advice from a solicitor but you should be aware that legal aid is not always free. There may be other organisations who can give you free advice.

Your options

Advice agencies

Depending on the type of legal problem you have, advice may be available to you for free.

Even if you think you need legal advice from a solicitor (which can cost money), using a free advice agency could help you talk about your options and next steps.

Citizens Advice Scotland
0808 028 1456
Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm
Saturday 10am to 2pm
Offers free advice on a wide range of issues, including benefits, housing and employment problems. They can give advice over the phone or in person at a local bureau.

Shelter Scotland
0808 800 4444 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Gives free advice, information and help on housing and legal issues. Speak to a housing adviser on the phone or find a local service near you.

Money Advice Scotland
Find a money advice agency near you for impartial advice about money and debt.

Turn2Us advice finder
This charity helps people in financial hardship find advice on benefits, housing, jobs and legal issues.

Your local council
Many local councils have welfare rights advisers who can help you with money, debt and benefits issues.

Visit Aberdeen City Council Visit Aberdeenshire Council Visit Angus Council Visit Argyll and Bute Council Visit Clackmannanshire Council Visit Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) Visit Dumfries and Galloway Council Visit Dundee City Council Visit East Ayrshire Council Visit East Dunbartonshire Council Visit East Lothian Council Visit East Renfrewshire Council Visit Edinburgh Council Visit Falkirk Council Visit Fife Council Visit Glasgow City Council Visit The Highland Council Visit Inverclyde Council Visit Midlothian Council Visit Moray Council Visit North Ayrshire Council Visit North Lanarkshire Council Visit Orkney Islands Council Visit Perth & Kinross Council Visit Renfrewshire Council Visit Scottish Borders Council Visit South Ayrshire Council Visit South Lanarkshire Council Visit Shetland Council Visit Stirling Council Visit West Dunbartonshire Council Visit West Lothian Council

Law centres
Law centres have solicitors and other advisers who can give you free legal advice.

Visit Castlemilk Law and Money Advice Centre – Glasgow Visit ClanChildLaw Visit Fife Law Centre Visit Govan Law Centre – Glasgow Visit Legal Services Agency – Edinburgh, Glasgow and Greenock Visit Scottish Child Law Centre

Using a solicitor

Solicitors are experts on law. They can:

  • give you legal advice
  • tell you what your legal rights are and how to enforce them
  • help you resolve your problem without going to court or a tribunal
  • represent you in court or a tribunal (if needed)

Using a solicitor can be expensive. At your first appointment they should tell you the likely cost of your case and if you can apply for help with legal costs.

Legal aid – help with legal costs

Legal aid can help you with the costs of legal advice and representation in court if you cannot afford it.

Types of cases you could get legal aid for include:

  • divorce and other issues affecting families and children
  • compensation for injuries after an accident or for medical negligence (if you think someone has made a mistake)
  • housing issues like problems paying your rent or mortgage, repairs and eviction
  • debt and welfare rights
  • immigration, nationality and asylum
  • Children's Hearings (cases that involve the welfare of children)
  • if you've been accused of a crime or face prison

You'll usually need to show that you cannot afford to pay for this help. You may have to pay some money towards the legal costs of your case or pay costs back later.

Instead of going to court

Although asking a court to help with your problem is sometimes needed, it can be expensive and take a long time.

Advice agencies and solicitors can help you decide if you need to take your case to court to solve your problem. They might suggest ways of sorting out your problem (called 'alternative dispute resolution') that could help you:

  • agree on more things before your case ends up in court (this could save you time and money)
  • sort out your problem without needing help from a court

At court

At some sheriff courts there are free advice services on civil law issues such as rent arrears, repossession and debt. This could help you resolve your case before any court action begins.

Contact your local court or Citizens Advice Bureau to see what court advice services are available.

Solving problems about:

Benefits

If you need help with a benefits problem or working out what you're entitled to, there are local organisations who can give you advice and support.

Find local benefits advice.

Challenge a benefits decision

If there's been a mistake with your benefit payment, or you do not agree with what you've been paid, you can ask the department who made the decision (the address is on your decision letter) to think again about what benefits you should get.

If you've completed their appeals process and you still do not agree with their decision, you can appeal to:

For discretionary housing payments, if the local council doesn't change its mind you cannot appeal the decision.

Help with appeals and tribunals
Speak to Citizens Advice or your local council if you need advice about appeals or tribunals, such as filling in forms or going to a hearing.

Visit Aberdeen City Council Visit Aberdeenshire Council Visit Angus Council Visit Argyll and Bute Council Visit Clackmannanshire Council Visit Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) Visit Dumfries and Galloway Council Visit Dundee City Council Visit East Ayrshire Council Visit East Dunbartonshire Council Visit East Lothian Council Visit East Renfrewshire Council Visit Edinburgh Council Visit Falkirk Council Visit Fife Council Visit Glasgow City Council Visit The Highland Council Visit Inverclyde Council Visit Midlothian Council Visit Moray Council Visit North Ayrshire Council Visit North Lanarkshire Council Visit Orkney Islands Council Visit Perth & Kinross Council Visit Renfrewshire Council Visit Scottish Borders Council Visit South Ayrshire Council Visit South Lanarkshire Council Visit Shetland Council Visit Stirling Council Visit West Dunbartonshire Council Visit West Lothian Council

A solicitor can also help you prepare for a social security tribunal. If you cannot afford your legal costs, you might be able to apply for advice and assistance from the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Children's Hearings

The Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) can start a Children's Hearing if a child:

  • is at risk of being taken into care
  • has been hurt or abused
  • is in trouble with the police

Getting help at a Children's Hearing

If you (or a child in your family) need to go to a Children's Hearing then, most of the time, you'll be able to speak to a social worker both before and during the hearing. They'll try to answer any questions you have.

At every Children's Hearing there will be someone called a 'Children's Reporter' who checks what happens is fair.

Legal help

You can get advice from a solicitor if you need to go a Children's Hearing – they can help you work out your rights.

Legal aid

If you apply for help from legal aid, it can help reduce your legal costs. You'll only get help if you can't afford to pay for a solicitor. Find out more about applying for legal aid.

Claims for money

You can apply to a court to claim money you're owed by a person or business.

Warning

There are other ways to recover money you're owed that could be quicker, cheaper and less stressful than going to court.

Legal advice
A solicitor can discuss your options with you.

You might be able to get help with the costs of:

Criminal injury

You may be eligible for compensation if you or someone you know has been hurt in a violent crime.

Find out how to claim compensation for a criminal injury and check what other support is available for victims of crime.

A solicitor can help you prepare your case for criminal injuries compensation. If you cannot afford your legal costs, you might be able to apply for advice and assistance from the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Debt

If you're in debt, going to court can cost you more money. Even if you get a letter that threatens you, or tells you that you need to go to court, it's not too late to try and sort out your problem.

Get help from a money adviser

A money adviser can help you with a debt problem by:

  • working out ways to manage your money
  • checking if someone you owe money to is treating you fairly
  • helping you speak to people you owe money to, helping you avoid court
  • helping you work out a new, lower amount for you to pay

Your local council
Many local councils have welfare rights advisers who can help you with money, debt and benefits issues.

Visit Aberdeen City Council Visit Aberdeenshire Council Visit Angus Council Visit Argyll and Bute Council Visit Clackmannanshire Council Visit Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) Visit Dumfries and Galloway Council Visit Dundee City Council Visit East Ayrshire Council Visit East Dunbartonshire Council Visit East Lothian Council Visit East Renfrewshire Council Visit Edinburgh Council Visit Falkirk Council Visit Fife Council Visit Glasgow City Council Visit The Highland Council Visit Inverclyde Council Visit Midlothian Council Visit Moray Council Visit North Ayrshire Council Visit North Lanarkshire Council Visit Orkney Islands Council Visit Perth & Kinross Council Visit Renfrewshire Council Visit Scottish Borders Council Visit South Ayrshire Council Visit South Lanarkshire Council Visit Shetland Council Visit Stirling Council Visit West Dunbartonshire Council Visit West Lothian Council

Legal advice
A solicitor can also give you advice about debts. If you cannot afford your legal costs, you might be able to apply for advice and assistance from the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

Complain to a financial ombudsman

If someone has not treated you fairly about a debt, you can get help from the Financial Ombudsman Service. This includes things like:

  • being asked to pay a debt you do not owe
  • somebody asking you to pay more after they've already agreed for you to pay less

Discrimination

The Equality Advisory Support Service can help if you've not been treated fairly because:

  • of your race, sex, sexual orientation, age or religion
  • you're disabled
  • you're transsexual

Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice if you have not been treated fairly.

You can also get advice from a solicitor about discrimination. If you cannot afford your legal costs, you might be able to get help from legal aid or a law centre.

Visit Castlemilk Law and Money Advice Centre – Glasgow Visit ClanChildLaw Visit Fife Law Centre Visit Govan Law Centre – Glasgow Visit Legal Services Agency – Edinburgh, Glasgow and Greenock Visit Scottish Child Law Centre

Divorce or separation

Talking to a solicitor or a mediator can help sort things out if you're finding it hard to agree with your partner about:

  • splitting up
  • getting a divorce
  • what happens to your children

If you can find a way to agree these things with your partner, rather than asking the court to decide, you can save yourself time, money and stress.

If you cannot afford your legal costs, legal aid might be able to help you.

The Parenting Plan is a tool to help parents agree on what's best for their children when their relationship comes to an end.

Domestic abuse

Warning

If you or your children are in immediate danger and need help, call 999.

You can get free help and advice about:

  • safely splitting up
  • getting divorced or moving house
  • what help you can get to protect yourself, such as a court order

Phone the Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 027 1234 or speak to:

Find out more about your options if you're affected by domestic abuse.

Legal help

A solicitor can help if you want to discuss legal protection for yourself and your children. You might be able to get legal aid to help with yor legal costs – the income of an abusive partner won't be taken into account when deciding whether you qualify.

The Scottish Women's Rights Centre offers free legal help for women affected by violence, such as domestic abuse, rape, stalking, forced marriage and human trafficking. Phone the helpline or book an appointment for one of the surgeries in Glasgow or Hamilton.

Scottish Women's Rights Centre
Helpline for across Scotland: 08088 010 789 (every Wednesday, 1.30pm to 4.30pm)
Book an appointment in Glasgow: 0141 552 3201
Book an appointment in Hamilton: 01698 527 003

Employment

If you're a member of a trade union, you should contact it to ask if it can help with your problem at work.

You can also get help from a solicitor or ACAS. In the early stages ACAS can help to try and solve your problem by:

  • giving you advice
  • talking to your bosses
  • asking them to pay you money in damages if they've done something wrong

If your employer has done something wrong and you cannot sort it out directly with them, the next step will be an employment tribunal.

If you need to go to a tribunal

You can get legal advice from a solicitor to deal with an employment tribunal. If you cannot afford legal advice, you might be able to get help from legal aid.

Find out more about solving a workplace dispute.

Housing

If you rent your home
If you're being evicted you can get help from Shelter Scotland.

You can get help:

  • from a free helpline – call 0808 800 4444
  • if you need to go to court – you do not always need a solicitor, Shelter Scotland can find an expert to help you

You can also get advice if you have a dispute with your landlord.

If you cannot pay your rent but have not been evicted yet you can get help and advice from your local council. You can still get advice from your local council even if you do not live in a council house and you have a private landlord.

You can also get help with any type of debt from a money adviser.

If you own your home

If you're facing repossession, you may be able to postpone or stop it. Visit the Keeping your Home website for guidance on what to do if your home is at risk of being repossessed.

You can get free help from Shelter Scotland, whether you need to go to court or not. Find out what help's available in your area.

To avoid repossession you can get help from the Scottish Government. The Home Owners' Support Fund can help you stay in your home.

Problems with your neighbour
If you're having a dispute with a neighbour, you can get help to resolve it.

Legal help
A solicitor can also give you advice about housing, and (if needed) represent you in court. If you cannot afford your legal costs, you might be able to apply for legal aid.

Immigration and asylum

If you need help to apply for asylum or you have a visa problem, you can get support from:

You can also speak to a solicitor for immigration advice. Check the Register of Regulated Immigration Advisers for a list of all organisations that provide immigration advice and services.

If you cannot afford your legal fees, you may be able to get help from legal aid.

Mental health

If you need to go to a mental health tribunal, legal aid is available for free to cover the cost of representation by a solicitor. You'll need to consult a solicitor who provides legal aid.

Find out more about legal aid, or find a legal aid solicitor on the Scottish Legal Aid Board website.

If you use a private solicitor you may need to pay something towards your legal costs.

You're worried about a loved one

If you're worried about a mental health tribunal you can get help from the Mental Welfare Commission. If a solicitor is already dealing with the tribunal they can also help.

Personal injury

If you're thinking about making a claim for compensation after being injured, you can get free advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. They will help you with the best next step.

A trade union may be able to help you with free legal advice if the injury happened at work.

A solicitor can also discuss your options with you. If you cannot afford your legal costs, you might be able to get help from legal aid.

Trouble with the police

You have the right to free legal advice if you're due to be interviewed by police officers at a police station.

The police will make sure that your solicitor is contacted about this. If you do not have a solicitor, a duty solicitor will be available to assist you.

If you're then charged, you can get help with legal costs if you're on certain benefits or you can't afford to pay for advice yourself.

Find out more about your rights if you're arrested.

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