Guide

Legal aid

Last updated: 31 July 2017

Advice and assistance

Advice and assistance can help with the costs of legal advice from a solicitor if you can't afford it. This could include:

  • advice on your rights and options
  • help with negotiations and paperwork
  • help if you're accused of a crime e.g. advice at a police station

If your solicitor prepares a case and acts for you in court and you need help with the costs, you'll need to apply for civil, criminal or Children's Hearing legal aid.

To apply for advice and assistance you'll need to find a solicitor that does legal aid work. They'll talk you through your options, let you know if you can get advice and assistance and help you with the application process.

Who can get help

You'll usually need to show that you can't afford to pay your legal costs yourself. You may have to pay some money towards the costs of your case, or pay costs back later.

Usually you can get advice and assistance if:

  • you don't have a large amount of disposable capital (savings, shares, property and money, but not the house you live in) you could use or sell to pay for legal help
  • you receive certain benefits, such as Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance
  • your weekly disposable income is less than a certain amount (this is the money you have left after deducting income tax, national insurance contributions and any maintenance payments you make)

Your partner's (someone you live with as a couple) disposable income and capital will also be taken into account, unless you're separated or your case involves them.

Your solicitor should tell you at the start of your case:

  • if you need to pay anything towards your legal costs (you pay this direct to your solicitor, who might let you pay in instalments)
  • whether you might have to pay out any money you keep or gain at the end of your case

What you might need to pay

Use the examples below to see if it's likely you'll get advice and assistance and what you might need to pay. Alternatively, you can use the advice and assistance online estimator on the Scottish Legal Aid Board website.

Remember that even if you can get advice and assistance, you may have to pay costs back later if you keep or gain money or property.

If you get benefits

You might qualify for advice and assistance if you get:

'Income-based' is a type of benefit you get because you're on a low income.

If you have savings

If your capital (savings and anything you own that's valuable – not your home) are worth less than £1,716 on the day you apply, you may be able to get advice and assistance (depending on your disposable income).

If your capital is worth more than £1,716, you won't be eligible for advice and assistance. Find other ways to get legal help.

Your disposable income

Your solicitor will also look at your disposable income to check that you need help with your legal costs. This depends on if you're single, live with a partner or have children.

The maximum you'll need to pay for advice and assistance is £135.

These figures are examples to show if you're likely to get advice and assistance. Your legal costs could be cheaper than this, depending on your case.

If your situation doesn't fit in with these examples, speak to a solicitor or SLAB to find out if you're eligible, the likely cost of your case and what you might need to pay.

If you're single

Monthly disposable income Eligible for advice and assistance?
£454 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£455 to £1,062 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £1,062 No, look at your other options

Example: if your disposable monthly income is £780, you would pay approximately £77 to your solicitor.

If you're single with 1 child

Monthly disposable income Eligible for advice and assistance?
£743 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£744 to £1,351 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £1,351 No, look at your other options

Example: if your disposable monthly income is £900, you would pay approximately £42 to your solicitor.

If you're single with 2 children

Monthly disposable income Eligible for advice and assistance?
£1,033 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£1,034 to £1,641 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £1,641 No, look at your other options

Example: if your disposable monthly income is £1,400, you would pay approximately £91 to your solicitor.

If you have a partner

Monthly disposable income Eligible for advice and assistance?
£635 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£636 to £1,243 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £1,243 No, look at your other options

Example: if your joint disposable monthly income is £950, you would pay approximately £77 to your solicitor.

If you have a partner and 1 child

Monthly disposable income Eligible for advice and assistance?
£925 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£926 to £1,533 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £1,533 No, look at your other options

Example: if your joint disposable monthly income is £1,300, you would pay approximately £91 to your solicitor.

If you have a partner and 2 children

Monthly disposable income Eligible for advice and assistance?
£1,215 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£1,216 to £1,823 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £1,823 No, look at your other options

Example: if your joint disposable monthly income is £1,700, you would pay approximately £112 to your solicitor.

If you're not eligible

If you can't get advice and assistance, there might be other ways to get help with your legal problem – some could be cheaper or free.

Remember, if you don't qualify for advice and assistance you may still qualify for civil, criminal or Children's Hearing legal aid.

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Legal aid
Advice and assistance