Can I get family or civil legal aid?

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Legal aid for family disputes

Legal aid may be available for family disputes or problems that could go to court, including:

  • disputes over relationship property, child support or maintenance, and care of children
  • protection orders
  • care and protection orders for children and young persons
  • adoption
  • paternity
  • mental health (compulsory treatment orders).

Legal aid is not available for problems that don’t go to court (such as drawing up a will), or for divorce proceedings.

Work out if you might be eligible for family legal aid

Whether you can get family legal aid depends on your income, assets and the merits of the legal case.

Apply for family legal aid

Eligibility requirements in the Legal Services Act 2011 (external link)

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Legal aid for civil disputes

Legal aid may be available for civil disputes or problems that could go to court or a tribunal. This includes debt recovery, breaches of contract, defamation, and bankruptcy proceedings.

It also includes proceedings before tribunals or specialist courts such as the:

  • Employment Relations Authority
  • Employment Court
  • Environment Court
  • Human Rights Tribunal
  • Legal Aid Tribunal
  • Māori Land Court
  • Immigration & Protection Tribunal
  • Social Security Appeal Authority
  • Taxation Review Tribunal
  • Tenancy Tribunal
  • Waitangi Tribunal.

Civil legal aid is not available for:

  • Disputes Tribunal or Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal cases
  • some immigration matters (except refugee matters)
  • reviews by Work and Income (although legal aid may be available to appeal a decision made by the Social Security Appeal Authority)
  • problems with schools, universities and other educational institutions (such as suspension meetings before the school’s board of trustees)
  • companies or groups of people (except in some cases, such as Waitangi Tribunal matters).

Work out if you might be eligible for civil legal aid

Whether you can get civil legal aid depends on any arrears from a previous legal aid debt, your income, assets and the merits of the legal case.

Apply for civil legal aid

Eligibility requirements in the Legal Services Act 2011 (external link)

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Other factors considered for family and civil legal aid

Other factors taken into account when determining whether you are eligible for civil or family legal aid include:

  • whether you have reasonable grounds for being involved in the case
  • your prospects of success
  • whether the cost of your case is likely to outweigh the benefit you could get from winning
  • whether for any reason it is unreasonable or undesirable for you to get legal aid for the case
  • whether you are up to date with your repayments from a previous legal aid debt.

For many family proceedings (including cases about care of children, child welfare, domestic violence, drug and alcohol treatment and mental health treatment) other factors can also be considered, including:

  • personal protection issues
  • the interests and welfare of anyone affected
  • how complex the case is
  • the public interest.

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Assessing your income and assets

To determine whether you can afford a lawyer, Legal Aid Services will consider:

  • how much you earn before tax
  • the value of your assets, such as how much property you own and any vehicles
  • how many financially dependent children you have.

If you have a partner, their finances will be taken into account.

The maximum levels of income and disposable capital used for determining whether you are eligible for family or civil legal aid are in the Legal Services Regulations 2011 (external link)

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Information in other languages

Legal aid for civil and family disputes

Legal aid for civil and family disputes - Māori [PDF, 850 KB]

Legal aid for civil and family disputes - Chinese [PDF, 943 KB]

Legal aid for civil and family disputes - Samoan [PDF, 847 KB]

Legal aid for civil and family disputes - Tongan [PDF, 850 KB]

Legal aid for protection orders

Legal aid for protection orders - Māori [PDF, 560 KB]

Legal aid for protection orders - Chinese [PDF, 649 KB]

Legal aid for protection orders - Samoan [PDF, 557 KB]

Legal aid for protection orders - Tongan [PDF, 559 KB]

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