Legal aid in New Zealand is granted through a government-funded program that offers financial help to those who can’t afford legal representation or advice in specific legal cases. Legal aid can be provided by our law firm in New Zealand, which is approved and contracted by the Legal Services Agency (LSA).
Who can get legal aid in New Zealand?
Legal aid in New Zealand is available to individuals who meet certain eligibility requirements, including financial and legal criteria. To be eligible for legal aid, you typically need to meet the following considerations:
- Financial eligibility: Your income, assets, and financial circumstances are assessed to determine whether you qualify for legal aid. Legal Aid Services Agency will consider factors such as: your income, the value of your assets (house, car, etc.), the number of financially dependent children you have, and your partner’s finances if applicable. If you meet the financial eligibility criteria, you may be eligible for legal aid in NZ.
- Legal Criteria: Legal aid is generally available for specific types of legal matters, including criminal cases where the potential punishment includes a prison term of six months or more, family law cases, and certain civil cases.
To determine if you qualify for financial assistance through legal aid in New Zealand you can either receive help from WINZ (Work and Income, an organisation within the Ministry of Social Development) or have an income lower than certain amounts based on your family size:
- If you’re single, your income limit is $27,393;
- If you have one dependent, the limit is $43,380;
- With two dependents, it’s $62,381;
- For three dependents, the limit is $70,888;
- For four dependents, the limit is $79,214;
- For five dependents, the limit is $88,552;
- If you have more than five dependents, your income limit goes up by $8,192 for each additional dependent.
Note these thresholds might change over time. If you believe you may be eligible for legal aid, you can discuss with our lawyers in New Zealand about your situation.
Criminal legal aid in NZ
To obtain legal aid in New Zealand for criminal cases, you must be charged with a criminal offense that carries a potential prison term of 6 months or more. Legal aid is primarily available for more serious criminal cases. It might also be available if you are appealing your conviction or sentence for one of these serious offenses.
In some cases, legal aid may be available for minor charges if you have been diagnosed with mental illnesses or learning disabilities. Our attorneys in New Zealand handle such situations as well.
Legal Aid Services Agency will determine your financial eligibility to see if you can obtain criminal legal aid. More details on this subject can be found in the Legal Services Act 2011.
We offer free legal advice in NZ for criminal cases.
Family and civil legal aid
Legal aid in New Zealand is also available for family and civil disputes. Civil disputes covered by legal aid in NZ include: recovering unpaid debts, breach of contracts, defamation, or bankruptcy. Civil legal aid is not available for certain types of cases, such as immigration issues, except for refugee matters, or disputes with schools or companies.
Some family disputes include: child custody, protection orders, children protection, adoption, and paternity cases. Legal aid can be available for disputes related to the division of assets and property when a relationship ends. However, please note it does not cover applications for divorce.
Eligibility for civil and family legal aid depends on factors such as: any previous legal aid debt, your income, assets, and the merits of the legal case.
Our New Zealand law firm can provide further details about legal aid.
Statistics about legal aid in New Zealand
You can find more details about legal aid in New Zealand, based on these statistics. This information is about legal aid grants in New Zealand, from June 2022 to June 2023:
- Legal aid supported 54,530 criminal cases;
- 18,702 legal aid grants were for family disputes;
- 1,352 grants were available for civil disputes.
For further details and assistance on legal aid or free legal advice in New Zealand, please contact our New Zealand lawyers. If you need tax-related services, we can get you in touch with our accountants in New Zealand.