How does Legal Aid decide who gets aid?

How do you decide who gets legal aid?

Demand for legal aid is high, so LAQ use strict criteria when granting aid for legal representation. This way LAQ can make sure LAQ are using  funding to help those who are least able to afford a lawyer.

What criteria do you use?

LAQ use three sets of criteria to determine if legal aid will be granted. These are the Legal Aid Queensland means test, funding guidelines and in most cases, a legal merits test.

How does the means test work?

The means test looks at your income and assets to see if you are financially eligible for legal aid.

If you support or provide financial help to other people (like a partner or child/ren), the means test will take this into account. If another person supports you, provides financial help to you or can be reasonably expected to provide you with financial help (like a partner), then the means test will take this person’s income and assets into account. Please ensure you include their income and asset details in your legal aid application.

What income should I include in my application?

You need to tell LAQ about any money you regularly receive including:

  • your salary or wage (if you are working)
  • money you receive from investments, like share dividends, rent from investment properties or payments from trusts
  • income you receive from an insurance policy claim eg accident, sickness or disability benefits.

If you rely on Centrelink payments for your income, you will usually be eligible for legal aid, as long as your assets are within the set limits. You should include Family Tax Benefit (Part A & B) payments, along with child maintenance and child support payments, as income.

What is ‘financial help’?

Financial help is where another person regularly gives you money, helps pay your bills or shares your living expenses. This could be a relative, friend, or your current or former partner or spouse. If you are in dispute with a person you usually receive financial help from, we will not take their income and assets into account.

What assets are included in the means test limits?

Assets taken into account include real estate (houses, land), cash, shares, debentures or other investments, and the assets of any person who helps you financially, unless you need legal aid because you are in dispute with that person. LAQ do not include:

  • the house you live in (if the equity is $146,000 or less)
  • cash you have saved to buy a home or land you own (if the equity is $146,000 or less); you must have signed a contract to buy or build a home before you knew about your legal problem for this cash or land to be exempt under the means test
  • household furniture (unless it is exceptionally valuable)
  • tools you need for your job (unless they are exceptionally valuable)
  • your car or cars (unless you have over $16,000 in equity).

What is equity?

Equity is the asset’s value less any money owing on the asset (eg Mary’s house is worth $400,000 and her mortgage is $290,000. Mary’s equity in the property is $110,000).

If your assessable assets are more than $930 (or $1880 if you receive financial help from another person or are single with dependent children), you may not be eligible for aid or may have to pay some money towards your legal costs.

If you are applying for a grant of aid for a family law property matter, you can have property with a total net equity (value of property minus any debts owing) of between $20,000 (minimum value required) and $400,000.

If you are 60 years or over, you can have equity in your home up to $292,000 if you:

  • receive an income-tested allowance or benefit and
  • have lived in your home for five years or more, or moved out of your home or bought an alternative home because of disability or illness.

If you are a farmer or a small business owner, you can have equity in the farm or business up to the following limits:

  • If you are a homeowner and you get financial help from another person — up to $236,500. If you do not get financial help from another person — up to $166,750.
  • If you do not own your home and you get financial help from another person — up to $357,500. If you do not get financial help from another person — up to $287,750.

A ‘homeowner’ is a person who owns or is paying off the house they live in.

How much can I earn and still get legal aid?

(PDF, 236KB)Table 1 sets out how much gross weekly income you can earn and still be eligible for aid. You can use this table to check if you meet the requirements and to see if you might have to make a contribution towards your legal costs. Table 2 shows how much you could have to pay towards your legal costs based on the value of your assets. LAQ will not approve your application if the amount you would have to pay towards your legal costs would be more than the grant of aid value.

What if I have special circumstances?

LAQ have developed guidelines to help identify applicants who would not usually meet the means test, but deserve special consideration because they experience multiple disadvantages. If you are experiencing domestic violence, live in a remote area, have an intellectual, psychiatric or physical disability or other disadvantage, you may be eligible for a grant of aid via LAQ special circumstances guidelines.

The special circumstances guidelines relate to assets only. A condition may be attached to any grant of aid approved under the special circumstances guidelines. For example, you may be required to pay a contribution towards your legal costs, and/or you may be required to provide your property as security for payment of these legal costs to Legal Aid Queensland. For a copy of the guidelines, call us on 1300 65 11 88.

How does the merit test work?

LAQ assess the merit of each person’s case by looking at:

  • the legal and factual merits of the case and if it is more likely to succeed or fail if it goes to court
  • if a sensible person would risk their money to take the case to court
  • if the benefit the applicant will receive from having a lawyer justifies spending limited public funds on their particular case.

What are the guidelines?

The guidelines tell LAQ the types of cases LAQ can fund, based on the priorities set for LAQ by the state and federal governments. You can get a complete list of the priorities on our website The priorities are included in the Grants Policy Manual. Some of the priorities are:

Civil law

  • Child protection proceedings
  • Domestic and family violence matters
  • Discrimination matters.

Criminal law

  • District and Supreme Court criminal proceedings
  • Indictable offences in the Childrens Court (these are serious offences)
  • Appeals to the Court of Appeal or High Court
  • Magistrates court committal hearings where the maximum penalty is more than 14 years in jail
  • Bail applications.

Family law

  • Urgent matters where a child’s safety or welfare is at risk or the applicant’s safety is at risk
  • Urgent matters where there is an immediate risk of a child being removed from Australia or to a remote location in Australia
  • Separate representation of children
  • Parenting plans and orders
  • Location and recovery orders
  • Injunctions relating to family violence.

How do I apply?

You need to complete an application form, which you can get from LAQ offices throughout Queensland, from the LAQ website or from one of LAQ’s preferred supplier law firms in your area.

You should speak to a solicitor about your problem before you apply. You can arrange to get free legal advice about most personal legal issues by calling LAQ on 1300 65 11 88 and making an appointment to speak to a lawyer.

What documents do I need?

When you complete your application form you will also need to include:

  • a copy of your health care card, pension card (if you have one) or your most recent Centrelink statement
  • copies of any pay slips for the past four weeks (if you earn a wage or your spouse, partner or family member earns a wage and gives you financial help)
  • copies of tax returns and assessments (including your spouse/partner’s), profit and loss statement and balance sheets for the past two financial years (if you are self-employed or a partner in a business)
  • copies of your bank statements for the past three months from all financial institutions where you have accounts (use an official bank statement or print one from your online bank account—you can’t use ATM receipts)
  • copies of any court or legal documents you have about your problem.

Where do I lodge the form?

You can lodge your form by mail or in person at any LAQ offices around the state. The postal addresses for LAQ offices are included on this factsheet. If a lawyer from one of our preferred supplier law firms completes the application for you, they can lodge it for you online.

How long will it take?

LAQ aim to assess about 80 percent of applications within five days. However many applications are complex and can take two weeks or more to properly assess. If you haven’t received a response 14 days after lodging your application, please contact LAQ.

What if I don’t agree?

You can appeal decisions made about your application by writing to LAQ and explaining why you believe the decision was wrong. You should also include any extra relevant information you want LAQ to consider with your letter. The external review officer — an independent person who does not work for Legal Aid Queensland — considers all appeals.

You have 28 days from the date you received your decision letter to write to LAQ and let LAQ know you want to appeal.

Can LAQ organise an interpreter?

Yes, LAQ can organise for an accredited interpreter to help you. LAQ are committed to making LAQ services accessible to all people who need LAQ services.

To have information about LAQ application process explained in your language, please call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50 to speak to an interpreter. Ask to be connected to Legal Aid Queensland.
If you have a hearing impairment, please call the TTY service on (07) 3238 3023. These are free services.

How do I provide feedback or make a complaint?

Your feedback – complaints, compliments and suggestions – about LAQ is welcome and LAQ take it seriously.

To make a comment about the service you received from Legal Aid Queensland, you can complete a client feedback form. The form is available from your local Legal Aid office and our website.

You can also give us feedback by:

  • writing to us at to us at GPO Box 2449, Brisbane, Qld, 4001
  • calling 1300 65 11 88 and talking to our staff
  • emailing


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