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Family Law Blog

Do I Qualify for Legal Aid in BC?

Do I Qualify for Legal Aid in BC?

Legal aid is an invaluable program that helps low-income Canadians access legal representation and advice. If you qualify under British Columbia’s financial eligibility requirements, Legal Aid will cover some (or all) of your legal costs. Alongside the financial requirements, Legal Aid has several other eligibility criteria to be aware of. Let’s clear up the misconceptions and examine how Legal Aid eligibility works in British Columbia.

Eligibility Requirements for Legal Aid in BC

While Legal Aid serves to make legal representation accessible for more individuals, it does have some eligibility requirements to be aware of. Your legal costs will be covered if you meet eligibility criteria in the following areas:

  • Your legal problem is covered by Legal Aid rules
  • You meet certain financial guidelines; and
  • You have no other way of accessing legal help

Legal Aid Rules

Under Legal Aid rules, only certain types of legal problems may be covered. These include:

  • Criminal charges
  • Mental health and prison issues
  • Serious family law cases
  • Child protection matters
  • Immigration and refugee issues

Meeting Financial Eligibility Requirements

If you meet the requirements for the type of legal issue, the application then proceeds to assessing financial eligibility. Monthly income levels are the main factor in this decision, alongside your household assets. You will have to demonstrate your household income is below certain thresholds before you qualify. Only a legal intake assistant at Legal Aid can determine if you’re financially eligible. Some of the aspects of your monthly income Legal Aid will assess include:

  • Employment income
  • Self-employment income
  • Social assistance benefits
  • Canada Pension Plan and Old Age benefits
  • Disability pensions or benefits
  • Child or spousal support payments
  • Student loans
  • Money from boarders or rental property
  • Income of spouse; and/or
  • Income of a common-law partner

Conversely, some aspects of your income won’t be included in these calculations. They include:

  • Child Tax Benefit
  • BC Family Bonus
  • GST payments
  • Tuition or book fees under federal or provincial loans
  • Children’s income

How Deductions Work for Legal Aid in BC

Even if you find yourself over the income threshold for Legal Aid, you may still qualify for some support. There are several deductions to be aware of that might help you qualify. When your criteria are being assessed, allowable deductions include:

  • Mandatory pay deductions such as income tax, EI and CPP
  • Daycare expenses
  • Medical Service Plan payments
  • Child or spousal maintenance payments
  • Court fines
  • Travel costs for child access visits
  • Medical, dental expenses or medication a doctor says is necessary for you or dependents

Get in Touch

If you need help navigating any aspect of Legal Aid, get in touch with us today. Our lawyers are ready to assist you with any questions and concerns you may have regarding this and other family law matters.