Guide

Legal aid

Last updated: 22 August 2017

Civil cases

Civil legal aid could help with the costs of using a solicitor to prepare a case and speak for you in court. Examples of civil cases include:

  • divorce, ending a civil partnership and disputes about children
  • trying to get compensation for injuries after an accident or for medical negligence
  • housing – e.g. rent or mortgage arrears, repairs and evictions
  • problems with debt or benefits
  • immigration, nationality and asylum

If you're just looking for legal advice and need help with the costs, you would apply for 'advice and assistance'.

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

Who can get help

You'll usually need to show that you can't afford to pay for your legal costs yourself. You may have to pay some money towards the costs of your case, or pay costs back later. You may not need to pay anything at all, depending on your financial position and the type of legal help you need.

Your solicitor can tell you if it's likely you'll get civil legal aid. However, it's the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) who will assess your application and tell you what you'll pay towards your legal costs.

Your solicitor will give you some forms to fill in and they'll send these to SLAB on your behalf. SLAB will check:

  • your financial situation – can you afford your legal costs without help from SLAB?
  • you have 'probable cause' – is there a legal basis to take your case forward?
  • it's reasonable to spend public money to support your case – is it likely to succeed, and will it cost more than it's worth?
  • help isn't available to you from somewhere else – is there a trade union or insurance company that could help you, and have you tried to settle your case without going to court?

When SLAB checks your financial situation they'll look at you and your partner's (unless you're separated or your case involves them):

  • disposable capital (savings, shares, property and money you could use or sell to pay for legal help – this doesn't include the house you live in)
  • disposable income (this is the money you have left after paying all your living expenses, like your rent/mortgage, council tax, childcare costs, debt repayments and your travel to work)

What you might need to pay

Use the examples below to see if it's likely you'll get civil legal aid (based on your financial situation) and what you might need to pay. Alternatively, you can use the civil legal aid online estimator on the SLAB website.

Remember that SLAB will also look at how strong your case is, and you may have to pay costs back later if you keep or gain money or property.

If you get benefits

You won't need to pay anything towards your legal costs if you get:

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

If you have savings

You may have to pay a lump sum towards your legal costs if you have capital (savings, shares and property) worth over £7,853. If you have capital worth over £13,017 you may not be eligible for civil legal aid, unless it appears to SLAB you can't afford to proceed without legal aid.

For example, if your disposable capital is worth between £7,853 and £13,017, deduct £7,853. This is the amount your lump sum will be.

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.

These figures are examples to show if you're likely to get civil legal aid. 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 civil legal aid?
£293 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£294 to £2,186 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £2,186 No, look at your other options

Example: if your disposable monthly income is £1,000, you would pay SLAB approximately £2,876, in 48 instalments of £59.92 a month.

If you're single with 1 child

Monthly disposable income Eligible for civil legal aid?
£583 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£584 to £2,476 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £2,476 No, look at your other options

Example: if your disposable monthly income is £1,000, you would pay SLAB approximately £1,647, in 42 instalments of £39.21 a month.

If you're single with 2 children

Monthly disposable income Eligible for civil legal aid?
£873 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£874 to £2,767 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £2,767 No, look at your other options

Example: if your disposable monthly income is £1,000, you would pay SLAB approximately £495, in 20 instalments of £24.75 a month.

If you have a partner

Monthly disposable income Eligible for civil legal aid?
£474 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£475 to £2,367 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £2,367 No, look at your other options

Example: if your joint disposable monthly income is £1,000, you would pay SLAB approximately £2,079, in 48 instalments of £43.31 a month.

If you have a partner and 1 child

Monthly disposable income Eligible for civil legal aid?
£765 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£766 to £2,657 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £2,657 No, look at your other options

Example: if your joint disposable monthly income is £1,000, you would pay SLAB approximately £928, in 30 instalments of £30.93 a month.

If you have a partner and 2 children

Monthly disposable income Eligible for civil legal aid?
£1,055 or less Yes, you might not need to pay anything towards your legal costs
£1,056 to £2,948 Yes, but you may have to pay something towards your legal costs
More than £2,948 No, look at your other options

Example: if your joint disposable monthly income is £1,500, you would pay SLAB approximately £1,757, in 42 instalments of £41.83 a month.

If you're not eligible

If you can't get civil legal aid, 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 civil legal aid you may still qualify for advice and assistance.

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Legal aid
Civil cases