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Need Legal Help Factsheet

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This information is general and is not a substitute for legal advice. The Legal Service Commission provides free advice for most legal problems. Contact the Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424 www.lsc.sa.gov.au www.lawhandbook.sa.gov.au

Need legal help?

The Legal Services Commission helps people with legal problems. You may have been arrested, had a car accident, have a problem with your family, received a summons, or any of a hundred other things and not know where to go. The Legal Services Commission provides legal information, legal advice and grants of legal aid.

Legal Help Line

Anyone can call the Legal Helpline for fast legal information and advice. This is a free service. Simply call 1300 366 424 between the hours of 9:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday. The Legal Helpline can be busy at times so please be patient. Your call will be answered as soon as possible.

Legal Chat

Legal Chat is an online text service that provides legal information via mobile phone, tablet or desktop when the Legal Help Line is open. Simply click on the Legal Chat icon at the bottom of our website.

Legal Advice

For face to face advice, we can make an appointment for you to talk to a legal adviser at one of our offices. We can provide initial advice for most legal problems and can refer you to other places to get help. To save yourself time, you should first call the Legal Help Line for initial advice. Appointments are free of charge, but are generally restricted to 30 minutes.

Duty Solicitors

Duty solicitors are legal aid lawyers at the Magistrates Courts and Youth Courts who help people on criminal charges. Duty solicitors are available to provide advice and help with bail applications and adjournments. Whether the duty solicitor can help you depends on what you have been charged with, your personal circumstances and how many other people need help on that day. They are usually very busy so it is best to get advice before going to court.

Duty Lawyers and FASS

Duty lawyers provide family law advice and assistance in the Family Law Courts for people without a lawyer. They can provide advice, help with adjournments, legal aid applications and referrals. People who have experienced family violence may also access the Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS) which provides further support through a social worker who is based with the duty lawyers.

Family Law Conferencing

Family Law Conferencing uses mediation to help resolve family law problems. To use our conferencing service, either you or the other person involved in the dispute must be receiving legal aid. Conferences are a good way of settling your family law problem without going to court. To find out more about conferencing see our Family Law Conferencing Brochure or telephone Family Dispute Resolution on (08) 8111 5534.

Child Support Unit

We provide a range of services for both carer and liable parents. For child support help and advice telephone (08) 8111 5576, leave your details and we’ll call you back. You can also contact by email to childsupportunit@lsc.sa.gov.au.

Women's Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service

The Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service is a statewide service for women experiencing family violence. Lawyers can provide advice and representation in relation to intervention orders in the Magistrates Court and tenancy matters at the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Telephone 1800 246 642.

Education and information

Looking for information? See our Law Handbook at www.lawhandbook.sa.gov.au, a comprehensive and easy to understand guide to the law in South Australia. We also run legal information sessions, webinars and publish a range of booklets, pamphlets and other information resources. See our website for details at www.lsc.sa.gov.au.

Planning for your appointment?

Bring any papers you may have about your problem. It may also be useful to write down your questions beforehand.

Legal Aid

If you need more than legal advice, we may provide a lawyer to help with your case. To apply for legal aid, you must fill in an application form and show us proof of your income and assets. Forms are available from our offices and private lawyers or you can apply online. You will generally get a letter within 14 days to say if you have been granted legal aid. A faster response will be provided in relation to any urgent matters.

Who can get legal aid?

Legal aid is not available for every legal problem. In granting legal aid we consider:

  • your financial situation - your income and assets (and your partner’s or anyone else with whom you have a financial relationship)
  • legal aid guidelines - for example, if it is a criminal matter, there must be a reasonable likelihood of imprisonment and family matters must usually involve a genuine dispute over children that you have not been able to resolve
  • whether your case can succeed.

What will it cost?

Legal aid is not free. There is a minimum contribution of $70 for family law matters and $50 for all other matters but you may be asked to contribute more towards your legal costs, depending on your income and assets. If you have real estate, a Statutory Charge can be placed on the title, so that your legal costs will be repaid at a later date when the property is sold or transferred. See our Statutory Charge Factsheet for more information.

Can I choose my own lawyer?

Yes, you can choose a private lawyer to represent you under a grant of legal aid. However, there are some rules to ensure that your lawyer is appropriately experienced to represent you under a grant of legal aid. If you don’t already have a lawyer, we may use one of our experienced staff lawyers or pay a private lawyer to represent you.

When does legal aid start?

We will pay legal fees from the date when legal aid is granted. You must pay for any legal costs incurred before your application is approved.

Interpreters and relay service

If you do not speak or understand English, we will arrange and pay for an interpreter. If you need help to talk to an advisor on the telephone or make an appointment, call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450, ask for the interpreter you need and get TIS to call the Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 or our office closest to you.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing and/or have a speech impairment, you can contact us through the National Relay Service. Ask to be connected to the Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 or our office closest to you.

Can I get legal aid for any legal problem?

No, under our legal aid guidelines there are certain matters for which representation is not normally available. However, these guidelines may be waived in special circumstances. Call our Legal Helpline for details on 1300 366 424.

Even if we cannot represent you, we can usually provide you with information and advice.

We do not normally represent people in the following matters:

  • divorce applications, unless there are special circumstances
  • family law property disputes, except in limited circumstances
  • traffic offences - unless there is a real risk of imprisonment
  • simple will disputes
  • complaints about lawyers - these are referred to the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner
  • defamation cases
  • conveyancing
  • bankruptcy matters
  • neighbour or fencing disputes
  • intervention orders - however, legal aid may be provided for the charge of breaching a intervention order
  • matters where adequate assistance can be obtained elsewhere, such as from Consumer and Business Services for simple consumer complaints
  • matters where private lawyers are prepared to act and be paid from money received at the end of the case, such as family law property settlements or personal injury matters
  • unfair dismissal applications
  • minor criminal matters where there is no risk of imprisonment
  • business or corporate matters.

16 January 2020