What is the “Means and Merit Tests” for Legal Aid?

Means and Merit Tests for Legal Aid

By Kayla Curtis

· Read time: 2 minutes

The means and merit tests are used by Legal Aid to determine your eligibility by looking at your income, assets and the likelihood of success for your case. 

In order to be eligible for legal aid, you must satisfy both of these tests. 

The Means Test

The Means Test specifically applies to your income and assets. It will determine your eligibility to receive legal aid and how much your initial contribution should be. Individuals who receive a government benefit at maximum rate qualify for legal aid (subject to change). Your assets are tangible items such as your: 

  1. Property, 
  2. Cash, 
  3. Savings accounts, 
  4. Antiques, 
  5. Inheritance, 
  6. Bonds.

In order to qualify for legal aid, you must have less than $1000 in cash and are not able to have anyone who can fund your legal fees for you. This can include family members, friends or distant relatives.

Legal aid may request copies of any and all bank statements, centrelink income statements, payslips, asset list and any other documentation that may outline your income and asset position.   

The Merits Test

The Merits Test applies to the likelihood of success in your matter. Lawyers have an ethical obligation not to act in matters that have no prospects of success. That means if there is no hope in gaining the outcome requested or a version thereof, a solicitor must not act. Legal aid has the same requirement, in order to be eligible for legal aid, a client’s matter must have a reasonable chance of success in the Courts or at mediation. 

In addition to the above criteria, Legal Aid will consider if there would be any benefit that the applicant might expect to gain by receiving legal aid, or any disadvantage or harm to the applicant that might result from being refused legal aid.

If you are unsure if you would qualify for legal aid, contact Legal Aid (Central Sydney) on (02) 9219 5000.

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