Know Your Rights: Help With Legal Costs

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Know Your Rights has been compiled by Kerry Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public…

Q. What kind of legal issues can you seek help with resolving through the Legal Aid Board?

In principle, legal aid and legal advice are available for all civil matters, other than those which are specifically excluded by law. Those excluded by law include:

• defamation
• disputes concerning rights and interests in or over land
• small claim cases
• alcohol/club licensing
• conveyancing
• election petitions – where a person challenges the result of an election
• applications made in a representative, fiduciary or official capacity
• group/class actions

However, there are exceptions to many of the above exclusions. For further details please contact your local law centre.

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Q. Is legal advice & legal aid means-tested?

Yes. In order to qualify for legal advice, you must pass a means test and in the case of legal aid, you must generally pass both a means test and a merit test.

Q. What is the merit test for Legal Aid?

This is an initial test to ensure that your case is a legitimate one and that a reasonable person would take the case and would be advised to take the case. You will pass the merit test, if in the Board’s opinion:

• you have as a matter of law, reasonable grounds for instituting, defending or being a party to the proceedings for which legal aid is sought
• you are reasonably likely to be successful in the proceedings
• the proceedings for which legal aid is sought are the most satisfactory means of achieving the result sought by you
• having regard to all the circumstances (including the probable cost to the Board, measured against the likely benefit to you), it is reasonable to grant the application
• your case does not fall within the excluded areas

If the proceedings concern the welfare of a child including custody or access or a sex offender order, the second and fourth bullet points do not apply.

Q. What is considered in the means test?

Most sources of income are considered by the Legal Aid Board and taken into account including income from a job, self-employment, pensions (both occupational and social welfare) investments, rental income, etc. The value of benefits, privileges and perks that you enjoy will also be taken into account.

As well as having disposable income of less than €18,000, you must also have disposable capital of less than €100,000. Your family home is not considered when assessing disposable capital.

Disposable income is total income less deductible expenses including income tax, mortgage repayments, rent, social insurance contributions, interest on loans, child-minding expenses and other items.

There is more detailed information on and on

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Q. How much of a contribution must one pay?

There are minimum contributions that must be paid except in cases of extreme hardship. However, the contribution that you must make depends on your disposable income for legal advice, and your disposable income and disposable capital, for legal aid.

There is no contribution required in child-care and domestic violence cases, however, you still need to come within the disposable income and capital thresholds.

Legal advice: a minimum contribution of €30 must be paid where your disposable income is less than €11,500. If it is more, your contribution is one-tenth of the difference between €11,500 and your disposable income, up to a maximum of €150.

Legal aid: a minimum contribution of €130 must be paid where your disposable income is less than €11,500. If it is more, your contribution is €130 plus one-quarter of the difference between €11,500 and your disposable income. You must pay an additional contribution if your disposable capital is more than €4,000 as follows:

• Up to €54,000 your contribution is 2.5% of the difference between €4,000 and your disposable capital
• Over €54,000 your contribution is €1,250 plus 5% of the difference between €54,000 and your disposable capital

Q. How does one apply?

You can apply on line at or complete a Legal Aid Application Form which you can get from your local Citizens Information Centre or download from the Legal Aid Board website.

For details of your nearest law centre, contact your local Citizens Information Centre or contact the Legal Aid Board on 0818 615200

• If you need further information about any of the issues raised here or you have other questions, you can call a member of the local Citizens Information Service in Kerry. They will be happy to assist you and if necessary arrange an appointment for you.

Kerry HELPLINE 0818 07 7860 

The offices are staffed from 10am -4pm from Monday to Friday.

Alternatively you can email on or log on to

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