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Financial contributions (section 18) - initial contributions

Legal Aid Queensland may impose a s 18 condition on a grant of aid that requires the client to make a contribution towards the cost of providing legal assistance by way of an initial financial contribution or by agreeing to security being taken over property.

Interest is not chargeable on contributions imposed pursuant to s 18 of Legal Aid Queensland Act 1997.

Initial financial contributions

The initial contribution is determined by the means test. It is a fixed amount that is payable by the applicant to their solicitor prior to the commencement of legal assistance.

When a legally assisted person is required to make an initial contribution on account of income and assets, the contribution to be imposed is the sum of both contributions.

Initial contribution exceeds commitment

No grant of legal assistance will be made when the initial contribution to be paid by the applicant for legal aid would be greater than the likely cost (commitment) on the particular grant of legal assistance.

Initial contribution will not exceed 75% of the total commitment

When calculating an initial contribution, regard is given to the total commitment of the initial grant of aid (solicitor + counsel + outlays). The initial contribution imposed must not exceed 75% of this commitment. For example, if the total commitment amount is $1200, and the initial contribution determined by the means testis $1195 the initial contribution actually imposed is $900 (75% of the total commitment).

Assistance is sought for more than one matter

Where an applicant applies for assistance for two or more matters at the same time only one initial contribution is imposed.

Financially associated persons

Where financially associated persons (e.g. husband and wife) apply for aid for the same legal matter, only one initial contribution is payable.

Examples where Legal Aid Queensland will only charge one initial contribution are where the financially associated persons are:

  • co-jointly charged
  • parties to a child protection matter.

Two year rule

If aid is granted to an applicant who has had another grant of aid where an initial contribution was imposed within the last two years, unless the applicant's financial circumstances have changed, a further initial contribution will not be imposed.

If the applicant's financial circumstances have changed, the initial contribution on the new file will be equivalent to the difference between the contribution already imposed and the new contribution as assessed.

If the initial contribution on the current file was imposed over two years ago, then a full initial contribution is payable on the new file.

Prior payment of legal fees

The fact that the applicant has already paid fees to a private practitioner in relation to a matter is not taken into account when assessing the level of the initial contribution to be paid. The initial contribution is assessed on the income and assets declared on the application form and no credit is given for payment of legal fees, whether in relation to the same matter or not.

Review

The applicant has 28 days within which to request a review of the decision to impose an initial contribution. If there were circumstances that prevented the applicant seeking a review within this time a request can be made to have the appeal period extended. This decision is made by a senior grants officer .

The senior grants officer will review the imposition of an initial contribution. The senior grants officer may waive, vary or confirm the initial contribution. If the senior grants officer confirms the initial contribution the request will be then be forwarded to the external review officer. The external review officer may waive, vary or confirm the initial contribution. The decision of the external review officer is final.

Security

A condition of the grant of aid may require the legally assisted person to make a full refund of costs and outlays incurred by Legal Aid Queensland. This type of arrangement is usually secured by way of mortgage. This situation usually arises where the application has been considered under the means test special circumstances guidelines.

Under a s 18 conditional grant of aid the mortgage over the applicant's property must be in place prior to the grant of aid becoming effective unless special circumstances apply and a forward date is agreed.

The contribution must be repaid within a time to be specified by the Chief Executive Officer or the Chief Executive Officer's nominee.

The mortgage documentation will be prepared by Legal Aid Queensland and will be sent to the applicant. The applicant will be advised to seek independent legal advice in relation to the mortgage documentation prior to signing.

If the applicant does not agree to sign the documentation within the time specified the application for aid may be refused. The applicant may seek a review in relation to the imposition of a s 18 condition and/or a refusal of aid.

As the matter progresses Legal Aid Queensland will periodically advise the applicant of the costs incurred.

At the completion of the matter the applicant will be advised of the total costs payable. This decision is final and not reviewable.

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