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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
This topic discusses legal aid. Legal Aid Alberta provides legal aid services to eligible Albertans in criminal, family, and civil areas of law.
Legal Aid Alberta provides legal assistance for both adults and youth on criminal charges. Coverage is also available to adults and youth for family matters, including child welfare issues and divorce support and custody issues. Legal Aid Alberta also provides coverage for immigration issues and civil matters, which are evaluated for merit and likelihood of success. Legal Aid Alberta will consider special circumstances of all applications for legal assistance, including appeals, if there are merits to the case.
Legal services officers assess clients’ needs and guide them to the appropriate stream of legal service. Services can include referrals and information, legal advice and brief services, and full representation. Every Albertan, regardless of income, can call a Legal Services Centre and receive free information and referrals.
You are eligible for other legal services if you live on a limited income. Your net family income, which is after deductions, will determine what legal services you are eligible for. Your assets may also be considered. When you apply, you are required to provide financial information on your income and assets and your living arrangements. You must also verify the financial information that you give to Legal Aid. If you live in a common-law relationship, the income of common-law spouses and their dependents are considered family for purposes of determining family income. Youths who live at home must also provide information on the income of parents or guardians to determine eligibility.
Legal aid is not free; you must agree to pay Legal Aid Alberta back for its legal services when you can afford to do so. When your case is finished you will receive a statement of account and a monthly payment schedule will be set up according to your financial situation. You may be asked for a security on any assets you have, for example a lien on a car or a mortgage on a home. Even if you owe money to Legal Aid Alberta and require legal assistance once again, you may apply for further help. There is no charge to make an application for legal aid.
Legal Aid Alberta has 11 offices throughout Alberta. Contact your nearest Legal Services Centre for an interview, either in person or by calling toll-free 1-866-845-3425. If you are held in a remand centre, correctional institution or mental health facility, ask the staff to arrange for an interview when legal service officers make their regular visits. At the interview, have your financial information available as well as any legal documents that you were served. All information is treated confidentially. Remember, this interview is only to see if you qualify for Legal Aid and what services are available for you — it is not for legal advice.
If your application is turned down, you can appeal the decision in writing. The appeals are usually heard within 30 days after they receive your written appeal, although it could take a longer time. You may appeal if you are refused again. For more information visit www.legalaid.ab.ca