Section 29 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 provides that a person shall not qualify for legal aid or advice unless he or she satisfies the requirements in respect of financial eligibility specified in the Act and in the regulations made under the Act.
The financial eligibility criteria are provided for under the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2017 and in particular Regulations 13 to 21. The Regulations provide that a person whose annual disposable income exceeds €18,000 shall not be financially eligible for legal services. A person’s disposable income is calculated by reference to their gross income less certain deductions prescribed in the Regulations.
The following criteria apply in determining the financial eligibility of applicants for legal aid who are paying maintenance:
Where an applicant for legal services is paying maintenance to his/her spouse/civil partner/former partner and/or paying maintenance for a child or children who do not reside with him/her, this is taken into account (up to the maximum deduction allowable) when conducting the financial eligibility determination.
The maximum deductions allowable are as follows:
- Where an applicant for legal services is living apart from his/her spouse/civil partner/former partner and is paying maintenance to them, the applicant for legal services is entitled to an allowance in respect of the amount paid, up to a maximum of the spousal allowance which is €3,500 against the calculated annual income.
- An applicant for legal services who is paying maintenance for a child or children is entitled to an allowance in respect of the amount of maintenance paid, up to a maximum of the dependant allowance, which is €1,600 per child against the calculated annual income.
The relevant allowance/s is offset against the applicant’s income so as to determine disposable income for the financial eligibility determination by the Legal Aid Board. The Board has no discretion to make an allowance for amounts of child support paid over and above those specified in the Regulations. Changes to the allowances are made periodically by amendment to the Regulations.