VLA's objectives are set out in the Legal Aid Act 1978. Its objectives are
- provide legal aid in the most effective, economic and efficient manner,
- to manage its resources to make legal aid available at a reasonable cost
to the community and on an equitable basis throughout the State,
- to provide to the community improved access to justice and legal remedies,
- to pursue innovative means of providing legal aid, directed at minimising
the need for individual legal services in the community.
Applying for Legal Aid
You must fill in an application form to get legal aid. You can get these
- offices of Victoria Legal Aid;
- most solicitors' offices;
- community legal centres.
What must be included in the application?
The application form needs to contain all the details of your case and your
financial situation. If people get a lawyer to complete the application form, it
is important that they make sure the lawyer has included all relevant details in
Lawyers who do legal aid work are required by the Legal Aid Act to help
people fill out an application form free of charge. This means that the lawyer
cannot charge you for:
- filling in the application form;
- providing information that should accompany the application;
- submitting the form; or
- giving you any legal advice following information you have given to help
them fill in the form properly.
Always ask about legal costs before seeing a lawyer.
Is Legal Aid Free?
Legal aid is not free. How much it costs will depend on your financial
How much will I have to pay?
You may have to pay all or part of your costs. This is called a contribution
and it can be paid in one amount or by monthly instalments.
Victoria Legal Aid will take a charge over property, for example, house or
land you own or are buying, to secure the total cost of your case.
How does Victoria Legal Aid work out my financial position?
A national means test is used to work out whether you have to pay a
contribution. The national means test allows for housing costs, financial
dependants and general living expenses.
You are entitled to know at any time how much you need to pay towards your
legal costs and how long you have to pay the money.
Who pays if my lawyer has worked on my case before I get Legal Aid?
You do. You should fill in your Legal Aid application form as quickly as
If I win my case do I have to pay any costs?
Yes. You may have to pay your lawyer's costs as a contribution, depending on
your financial position.
What happens about costs if I lost my case?
If it is a type of case in which the court can order the losing party or one
party to pay costs, you may have to pay the other party's costs as well as
paying a contribution to your own lawyer's costs.
How does my lawyer get paid?
Victoria Legal Aid pays your lawyer direct.
It is an offence for your lawyer to ask you to pay any costs for legal aid
Choosing a Lawyer
Can any lawyer be used?
Usually Victoria Legal Aid will appoint the lawyer nominated by the
Questions to ask when making an appointment:
- Does the lawyer do family law work?
- Does the lawyer do legal aid work?
- How much will the first interview cost or is it free?
- What is the likely cost of the case?
How to prepare for the appointment
Make detailed notes about the relationship including:
- when the relationship started and finished;
- any separations that occurred;
- names and dates of birth of any one else in the household;
- the key aspects of the dispute;
- any instances of violence;
- any efforts to resolve the dispute ie, counselling or mediation.
Where possible, relevant dates should be included. The client should make a
note of any questions they might have. They should ask for an estimate of costs
at the interview.
Taking a friend to the appointment
It is up to the client to decide. If the client wants, a friend, relative,
domestic violence worker, culturally specific worker, refuge worker or volunteer
may attend the appointment.
Is the consultation confidential?
Can a lawyer be changed?
Yes. In a family law matter a client may change their lawyer once. The
original lawyer must notify Victoria Legal Aid, who will then authorise the
transfer of the file and the grant of legal assistance. The client is
responsible for any costs of transferring the file, the cost of the new
practitioner familiarising themselves with the file and any delays that may
occur during the transfer of the grant.
Complaints about lawyers
Legal aid clients with complaints about a member of Victoria Legal Aid staff
should contact that staff member's general manager. A complaint about a private
practitioner should be referred to the Administration Investigations &
Compliance Co-ordinator at Victoria Legal Aid.
If that investigation confirms a breach of the Legal Aid Act, the matter will
be referred to the Victoria Legal Aid Board of Directors for action.
Complaints about lawyer's conduct can also be made to the Professional
Standards Division of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Legal Ombudsman's
Office, or the Victorian Bar Inc.
How much Legal Aid will I get?
VLA has set cost ceilings on the amount of legal aid it will provide in each
- The cost ceiling in family law cases is $10,000; and
- County Court trials for criminal matters is $15,000.
Getting more information
If you want more information about legal aid ask your lawyer or contact any
Victoria Legal Aid office.
Melbourne 350 Queen Street (03) 9269 0234