Area of Law: Legal Aid
Answer # 848
How to apply for legal aidRegion: Ontario Answer # 848
To apply for legal aid, you can visit a Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) office or call LAO and apply over the telephone.
What you need to apply
When you apply for legal aid assistance, you should have as much information available that relates to your legal issue as possible. If you are applying over the phone, a representative may refer you to another LAO service, such as Duty Counsel, or they may direct you to a second representative, if it is determined you need to apply for the Certificate Program (in which case LAO will pay for a lawyer to represent you).
If you are making an application to the Certificate Program, or if you are working, you will also be asked to provide information about your finances, such as your source of income, amount of income and any assets.
If applying in person at an LAO office, you should bring the following:
- Some form of identification, such as a Social Insurance card, Driver’s License, Health Card, or Permanent Resident Card;
- Any documents relating to your case, such as court orders, separation agreements, a copy of the Crown Screening for criminal charges, or a copy of any police summons, indictments or charges or any other documents related to your case;
- Proof of your current income if you have any, such as recent pay stubs, social assistance cheque stubs, Employment Insurance statements or T4 slips;
- An up-to-date bank book or bank statements;
- Proof of monthly expenses and bills, including rent receipts or mortgage payments, hydro and gas bills, car payment receipts, credit card statements and car insurance bills;
- If you own your home, the deed to your home; and
- Proof of any unusual expenses such as medical costs.
When you are at the LAO office, you will be required to fill out a legal aid application. The staff at the office will help you with this and may be able to tell you right away whether you are eligible for legal aid. It is important that you inform the staff if your situation is an emergency so that you will be given help immediately. Staff at a community legal clinic may also be able to help you with your application.
If applying by phone:
- If you are working, you may be asked to mail in three or four paystubs;
- If you are self-employed, you may be asked to mail in recent financial statements; and
- If you receive assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program or Ontario Works, your social assistance status will be verified over the phone.
To apply by telephone, call LAO toll-free at 1-800-668-8258 or 416-979-1446 in Toronto.
Victims of domestic violence
If you are experiencing domestic violence and you qualify financially, LAO will provide coverage for all contested family matters and changes to family court orders.
If you are leaving a violent family situation and you need immediate help, you can receive up to two hours of free legal advice about your rights and options from a private lawyer through the Family Violence Authorization Program. This program is available through some shelters and community legal clinics. The Program also provides assistance with immigration and refugee matters. Contact LAO to find out where this program is available and for information on other services they offer for victims of domestic violence.
What happens after you apply?
About two weeks after applying, LAO will send you written notice of its decision. If your application is accepted, you will either:
- Receive a Legal Aid Certificate, or
- Receive a Legal Aid Certificate under the condition that you sign a Contribution Agreement, in which you agree to repay some, or all of your legal aid costs.
Once you receive your Certificate, you can take it to any lawyer who accepts legal aid and who agrees to represent you. If your application is refused, and you are given the right to appeal, it will be stated on the refusal notice, together with information about where to send your appeal. If the decision was made by the district area Director, you must appeal to the local area Legal Aid Committee. Subsequent appeals will then be made to the provincial appeals department. If the decision you are appealing was made by the local area Legal Aid Committee, then you will appeal directly to the provincial appeals department. The decision of the Director of Appeals is final and there is no further right of appeal.
What lawyer can I use?
If you qualify for legal aid, you will be allowed to use the services of any lawyer of your choice. Of course, as mentioned, you must make sure that the lawyer you choose accepts legal aid cases. You may want to speak with more than one lawyer to find someone that you feel comfortable with. Once you have chosen a lawyer it is unlikely that you will be allowed to change lawyers.
The LAO office will have a list of lawyers who can work on your case. To find an LAO office near you, visit Legal Aid Ontario.
Make a complaint
You have the right to file a formal complaint with LAO if you have a problem with one of their services, a community legal clinic, or a legal aid lawyer. Contact LAO and their Complaints Department for more information.
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