Applying for legal services
Once a completed application form is accepted and the case created on EOS, you cannot change the name of the applicant on the system except where the applicant:
- changes their own name on marriage
- reverts to their pre-marriage name
- changes their name by deed polI or other legal process
In particular it is not permitted, under any circumstances, to change the name of the applicant so that the application appears to refer to a completely different person to the person who originally made the application. Only changes of name that do not alter the identity of the person who has made the application for legal services may be made.
Where it becomes clear, during the financial assessment process:
- that the applicant’s spouse has a common interest in the proceedings
- that because of this, the means of the spouse will be taken into account in the financial assessment process
- the spouse will be a party to the legal proceedings, if in being or contemplated.
then the spouse’s name may be added to the case. The name of the original applicant should not be removed under any circumstances.
All applications received by the law centre – whether in person, by post, or through the online application facility - must be processed or acknowledged within seven days of the law centre receiving the application (or within 48 hours if the matter upon first examination appears that it may be a priority matter).
The acknowledgement may be in any of the following forms:
- A letter deeming the applicant to be financially eligible and placing them on the applications record
- A letter deeming the applicant to be financially eligible and offering them a priority appointment
- A letter refusing legal aid on the basis of financial eligibility
- A letter seeking further information required to determine the applicant’s financial eligibility
- In principle there should be no reason why a law centre cannot process applications received in the time frame allowed.
If for any reason, the law centre is not in a position to send any of the above communications within seven days/48 hours, as appropriate, the applicant must be contacted and informed in writing within that period that their application has been received and is being processed. We consider that the circumstances when this should happen should be exceptional and rare.
In the case of applications that appear to be priority the law centre should call the applicant as well as issuing written communications.
All cases, once set up on EOS initially, must immediately be placed in the APP001.Application Received workflow and remain in this workflow until the initial financial assessment/passporting is carried out. This applies equally to cases being set up by Legal Services (such as child abduction and enforcement of foreign maintenance) as it does to those being set up by a law centre.
The only exception to this rule is for conveyancing cases which are connected with a previous matter and being set up on EOS as a separate case only for the purposes of case management. See è Part 2 of the Circular on Legal Services.
When entering an application on EOS, it is important to set up the case type as an Enquiry (either Family Law Enquiry or Non-Family Law Enquiry), until it has passed the financial assessment/passporting stage of the application process. The reason for this is to ensure that EOS does not place financially ineligible applications, or applications that are not pursued as far as this point, on the applications record. Online applications are set up as enquiries but should be reclassified as Family Law Enquiries or Non-Family law Enquiries at an early stage of processing.
This does not apply to applications for matters completely exempt from the financial assessment process, such as child abduction, foreign maintenance, and rape cases, where no contribution is payable and the grant of legal aid is automatic. Most cases of these types will be set up by Legal Services in any case. It is important to note that the milestone “Application changed from an enquiry to a case type” in the APP001 workflow must be completed for any case which is going to be placed on the applications record.
This also does not apply to conveyancing cases which are connected with a previous case and being set up on EOS as a separate matter solely for the purposes of case management.
Applications made in person
A computer may be provided in your Law Centre’s consultation room. If so, and in the event that a meeting with the applicant is required for the purpose of the means test, the information provided by the applicant should be directly entered onto EOS.
If no computer is provided in your consultation room, the information from the application form and Income Assessment Form should be entered on to EOS as soon as practical after the means test. The paper copies must still be kept on an applications lever arch folder.
If you receive a postal application, the information from the paper application form should be entered onto EOS when processing the application, but after the conflict check is carried out. The paper application form must be kept on the applications lever arch folder. If you require supporting documentation in relation to financial eligibility, è Procedure 3.5 should be followed.
Any person seeking legal aid for an appeal of a court order must make a fresh application for legal services, even if they were previously legally aided at the trial.
The application for legal services for the appeal is treated as a new application and a new case must be opened on EOS for the person and the person financially assessed. If the person was previously legally aided, and remains financially eligible for legal services, the application will be prioritised (having regard to the time limit to make the appeal) and the case will (in general) be assigned to the same solicitor who previously represented the person. A fresh legal advice (and, if legal aid is granted, a legal aid) contribution is payable in respect of the application.
Where the appeal is:
- from the District Court to the Circuit Court
- the person was legally aided by a member of the District Court private family law solicitors panel,
- and the applicant for legal services is the person taking the appeal (the appellant)
the law centre must:
- Request the applicant to provide to the law centre a letter from their private solicitor outlining the grounds upon which the applicant is appealing. This letter will form the basis of the submission for a legal aid certificate (see the Circular on Legal Services for more information on this procedure).
- Inform the applicant of the time limit of fourteen days (from the day the decision of the court was given) to serve on each respondent and lodge with the District Court Clerk the Notice of Appeal
Where an application is received from a child in relation to child care proceedings the application should be accepted but brought to the attention of your managing solicitor at an early opportunity.
In these scenarios there is sometimes little or limited information available. It is important that each application or enquiry is dealt with on a case by case basis. The general rules apply i.e. we cannot refuse to accept an application. Where appropriate you can seek a direction from your managing solicitor, or where necessary the Director of Civil Legal Aid/Regional Manager. Legal Services are obliged to consider any application received on its merits and a formal decision will be made.
Section 25 of the Child Care Act 1991 allows a child to be entered as a party to the proceedings. Where a guardian has been appointed a child cannot also be party to the proceedings. Once an order under section 25 is made the court may appoint a solicitor to act as a representative and the costs of the child's legal representative are to be paid by Tusla (but it is open to Tusla to apply for a direction that any other party to the case should foot the bill).
As the child can get / or received representation from Tusla by way of Tusla appointing a solicitor / by way of a court appointed solicitor - then it is open to us not to grant a legal aid certificate under section 28(4)(a) of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1994. However that is a decision that must be made at Legal Services level.
Members of the public making enquiries in relation to legal services can be provided with relevant information without completing an application form. This would include, for example, information about the services available from the Board (including family mediation) or about financial eligibility.
If a person is being advised by law centre staff that s/he appears not to be financially eligible or that the subject matter may be outside the scope of the Act, the person should be advised that s/he may submit a formal application and that a formal decision will be taken on that application. This information can be provided by any member of staff and would usually be provided by a clerical officer.
Persons making enquiries should not be told to make their application at another law centre or that the law centre to which they have applied cannot provide a service. If a law centre has a concern about being able to provide a service in a particular case the matter should be raised by the managing solicitor with the Director of Civil Legal Aid.
Regard should be had to the fact that there is no law centre that specialises in “difficult cases” or “difficult clients”. Every law centre has a responsibility to deal with the applications it receives and not to seek to avoid the more difficult matters.
Do not tell a person that the matter is outside the scope of the Act, or that they are financially ineligible, without being certain!
While you may inform a person that the application for legal services is likely to be refused, on either basis, you may NOT refuse to accept an application for legal services, if a person wishes to make an application
Applications from persons resident in Denmark or outside of the EU/EEA who are seeking legal aid in Ireland can be accepted on the standard application form. There is no requirement for the person to reside in the State when making the application.
Applications from other member states of the EU/EEA (other than Denmark) are also processed directly through Head Office. Applications must be made directly to Head Office (or via the legal aid authority in the applicant’s home state) on the mandated form under Council Directive 2003/8/EC. This form is available on the Board’s website.
Legal Services will set up the applicant on EOS, conduct the means assessment, and then transfer the case to a law centre.
At any time up until the point legal proceedings are commenced a person whose problem is a family law matter may express interest in dealing with the matter through the process of family mediation. Family mediation is a service to help couples who have decided to separate or divorce, who have already separated, or who have never lived together but have a child together to negotiate their own terms of agreement, taking into account the needs and interests of all involved. In certain circumstances, mediation can also assist in disputes within families. Mediation involves the parties sitting down with a trained mediator to work out an agreement. It is not marriage guidance or counselling and the aim is to achieve an agreement on the issues in dispute between the parties, not reconciliation.
The benefits of meditation include:
- It is a confidential service.
- Mediators are highly skilled professionals facilitating the couple in their negotiations; they do not take sides and are neutral as to the outcome of the process.
- A balanced settlement is reached that is acceptable to both parties. People are in control of the decisions that are made about their futures.
- Decisions taken together are more likely to be honoured.
- It promotes communication and co-operation, reducing bitterness and distress.
- Keep out of court and the adversarial system which can further polarise individuals.
- Parents are helped to remain as partners in childrearing by developing parenting plans that suit their particular circumstances.
Where an applicant expresses an interest the law centre may refer the person to their paired mediation office (see Chapter 6) or alternatively to another of the Board’s mediation offices which is more convenient for the applicant.
Mediation offices provide pre-mediation during which applicants are assessed for suitability, screened for domestic violence and capacity to negotiate. Any applicant presenting with a family law matter should be referred to a mediation office. There is no need for the law centre to make any determination as to suitability for mediation.
This pre mediation step does not delay the legal process. The application for legal services should continue to be processed as if the referral had not been made until and unless the applicant specifically requests it to be withdrawn. Where the application is in connection with a priority matter, including a domestic violence matter, it must be accorded the same priority service as it would normally be received and if the matter would normally be referred to the solicitors panel that referral should proceed. Where a domestic violence order is in place the mediation service may be able to screen suitability to mediate. Similarly, if the matter is one where there is High Risk (e.g. a statutory deadline due to expire or a risk that family assets might be dissipated) legal services should be provided immediately to ensure that any risk does not materialise.
A referral form which the person should be asked to complete is available. The completed form may then be scanned and emailed to the relevant mediation office. The mediation office will contact the person directly and arrange an initial information session on family mediation.
Where the person has not yet made an application for legal services they should be asked whether they wish to do so. If the person wishes to make an application for legal services, they may do so and the application process can continue whilst the applicant has been referred to mediation.
Some applications to the Board are processed by Head Office and allocated to a law centre. These include:
- Applicants in child abduction and foreign maintenance matters (applications are made through the Central Authority for Child Abduction/Maintenance Recovery)
- Complaints in certain rape and sexual assault cases (applications are made through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions).
- Applications in the above categories will be processed by Legal Services, who will perform the tasks of setting the applicant up on EOS and then transfer the case to a law centre who will make the application for legal aid. The legal aid certificate is normally automatically granted in these cases.
In the case of applicants who are exempt from contributions it should be noted that no means assessment is carried out and no contribution is payable. Therefore law centres should not create a means test or attempt to passport these applications on EOS.
These cases, in general, receive a priority service from the Board.
In this chapter, the word “letter” includes a letter sent as an attachment to an email, where an applicant has indicated that they would prefer to be contacted by email and provided an email address.
For easy reference, flowchart overviews of the applications procedures are to be found in this Chapter. These are for guidance only and should be read in conjunction with the detailed procedures found in this Chapter.
Applications for legal aid must generally be made by an adult on behalf of the child who wishes to make an application.
It is generally the case that a child is not legally capable of maintaining or defending legal proceedings in their own right. Children must generally sue by a next friend who is generally a parent or guardian and defend by a guardian ad litem (“guardian at law”) whom is an adult. The adult who makes the application on behalf of the child must generally be the person who is intending to act as next friend or guardian ad litem.
If legal aid is granted, the adult will be required to sign an undertaking to pay to the Board any money which the Board may be owed (i.e. any contribution payable or any costs recoverable from the legally aided person).
There may be circumstances where it is appropriate to accept an application from a child in their own right. For example there may be circumstances where a child is a party in their own right to private family law proceedings in the District Court - for example where they are themselves a parent and there is an application for maintenance - and there is no next friend or GAL in the proceedings. If in doubt bring the application to the attention of your managing solicitor.
Where it is intended to take instructions from a minor the solicitor should not see the minor alone and regard should be had to the Children First Guidelines which are published on iLAB.
Queries from Irish citizens regarding legal aid in other member states of the EU/EEA
Where the query relates to legal aid in England and Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland, you should give the contact details for the legal aid authority in the jurisdiction concerned:
- Legal Aid Agency (England and Wales) 00 44 345 345 4 345
- Scottish Legal Aid Board 00 44 131 226 7061
- Legal Services Agency Northern Ireland (048) 9040 8888
The United Kingdom has indicated its intention to withdraw from the European Union on 29th March 2019. Any change with regard the participation of the UK in Council Directive 2003/8/EC will be notified to staff. It is not expected that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union should have any impact on the above arrangements.
Any law centre who receives a query from an Irish citizen regarding applying for legal aid in any other member state of the EU/EEA (other than Denmark) should be provided with a copy of the mandated form under Council Directive 2003/8/EC and advised to post the form to Head Office who will forward it to the legal aid authority in the member state concerned for processing. A copy of the form is available on the Board’s website. Note that applicants wishing to avail of the EU Council Directive must apply on the prescribed form and for this reason cannot use the online application system.
More information on how the cross border legal aid directive works can be found in the Circular on Legal Services
Legal aid or advice cannot be provided in respect of an inquest where no request has been made by a coroner. In certain inquests, a family member of the deceased may apply to the coroner for a request to be made for legal aid or advice to be provided for the inquest. We are not involved in this process. A request can only be made in certain categories of death and may only be made on behalf of one family member. It is for the coroner to identify if the request may be made in any particular case
Outside of this limited range of cases applications for legal services in respect of inquests remain outside of the scope of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.
The procedure for processing such requests is as follows:
Procedure 3.1 – Processing requests from a coroner to provide legal aid for a nominated family member.
The Coroner Service Implementation Team (CSIT) will continue to handle the processing and recording of fee claims by the solicitor. Any invoices received by Legal Services Unit 4 will be sent to CSIT for processing.
Each applicant for legal services must complete the Board’s Application for Legal Services form. It is essential that the form is fully completed. This form requires that an applicant provides information on both the subject matter and their financial situation. Family law and non-family law matters cannot be dealt with on a single application form. In the case of applications relating to family law matters, the general heading on the form should be ticked and details provided in the appropriate space. Details could include, for example:-
- marriage has broken down;
- custody / access / maintenance issues;
- problem with violence; or
- child care issues.
In the case of non-family law issues, separate application forms must be used for each matter. The general heading on the form should be ticked and details should be provided in the appropriate place. If there is any doubt about this, clarification should be sought from the managing solicitor.
A separate application form is available for applicants who wish to apply for services in respect of international protection matters. These forms are available on the Board’s website. The international protection application form is designed on the basis that most applicants for legal services in connection with an international protection matter will be in “direct provision” and eligible for passporting. Where this is not the case the standard application form should be used.
Alleged victims of human trafficking who wish to apply for legal advice must complete a separate application form. These applicants are referred directly by the Garda Síochána to Law Centre (Smithfield).
The Board has published a guide for applicants, “How to Complete your Application for Legal Services Form” which may be handed to applicants and should be sent with each form posted to applicants.
If an application form is defaced, contains profanities, insulting or abusive language, threats or is unclear with regard to the subject matter, the application should be brought to the attention of the managing solicitor. A managing solicitor may form the view that the law centre should not accept such an application and return it to the applicant to allow them to make a proper application. Law centres must accept applications for legal services, regardless of the place of residence of the applicant. Where the applicant is located a distance from the law centre, cost implications may arise and the application should be brought to the attention of the managing solicitor.
Where legal services are to be provided at a law centre other than the law centre at which the application was made, the nominated law centre should be contacted and told that the completed application will be forwarded to them. The person should be provided with services by reference to the date when the completed form was received. In the event that the person cannot be given an immediate appointment with a solicitor and if the matter is not to be given priority, the person should be placed on the applications record by reference to the date of receipt of their fully completed application for legal services.
Applications for services in respect of international protection matters should be submitted to one of the Smithfield, Pope’s Quay (Cork) or Seville House (Galway) Law Centres as appropriate.
Except as outlined in the “conflict check” section below, applications should not be forwarded to another centre without the approval of that centre’s managing solicitor or the Director of Civil Legal Aid. On occasions the Director of Civil Legal Aid may determine that it is in the best interests of the Board that an application (or a file) is transferred from one law centre to another.
Except in the case of applications for emergency legal aid certificates, international protection and human trafficking, all applicants for legal advice and/or legal aid must make an application in writing on the Application for Legal Services form. Copies of application forms are available in your Law Centre and may be ordered from Organisation. The form is usually completed by the applicant, but support staff can assist if necessary. The form must be signed and dated by the applicant.
An applicant should be advised that an application can only be considered on receipt of a fully completed form, which is signed and dated, and includes all information in relation to an applicant’s financial eligibility. In any case where an incomplete application form is received refer to è Procedure 3.5 for instructions. When an applicant’s financial eligibility has been determined, staff should place the matter on the applications record, and establish whether the applicant should be offered a priority appointment and / or details of the application placed on the risk register. See guidelines at Chapter 4. Risk assessment.
International Protection clients are not put on a waiting list. The APP001, APP003, and APP006 workflows should be completed in line with the international protection staff guidance note to ensure that applicants do not show on the waiting list.
Applications records in law centres must be reviewed on a regular basis to:-
- ensure that only appropriate cases are on the applications record i.e applicants that are
- financially eligible and satisfy other criteria of the Act,
- identify relevant cases to be recorded on the risk register; and
ensure priority cases are dealt with appropriately.
Managing solicitors are required to:-
- personally examine application forms received on a weekly basis;
- identify applications potentially suitable for referral to family mediation and send out information on family mediation to those applicants;
- determine what applications should categorised as High Risk on EOS;
- in cases with statutory or other deadlines determine the date of accrual of the action and the limitation period and ensure that this information is recorded on EOS. Where necessary, the managing solicitor should seek further information from an applicant in order to determine the applicable limitation period, when the time started or will start to run, and when the period expires;
- determine what applications should be prioritised where ;
- put a system in place to ensure that all staff are aware of:-
- the implications of limitation periods;
- when cases should be referred to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB); and
the provisions of the Handbook and Circular in relation to priority being given to new applicants seeking legal services where, there is a danger that the time limits for issuing proceedings may expire, unless immediate action is taken, or where the case falls within the categories of priority; and
- monitor the applications record on EOS through the use of the reports (è Chapter 10) and other tools available and ensure that it is kept up to date.
The application for legal services form is provided centrally by Head Office and has been approved by the Board. It is not permitted for law centres to alter the standard application form to ask for further information nor is it permitted for law centres to devise supplemental forms nor to require an applicant to complete such supplemental forms at application stage. There are centrally provided information gathering sheets which may be posted to an applicant at the first consultation stage and they are illustrated in Chapter 5.
APP01. Letter to accompany application form
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
Mr John Smith
1 Main Street
Co. Dublin 1st September 2016
RE: APPLICATION FOR LEGAL SERVICES
Dear Mr Smith,
When we spoke by telephone you indicated that you would like to make an application for civil legal advice and/or aid. I enclose our Application for Legal Services form. If you wish to apply for legal services, please complete this form fully and return it to me at the address below.
Documents we need to process your application
You will need to send me proof of your income:
Procedure 3.2 - Steps for dealing with a caller who wishes to apply for legal services
These procedures apply, in general, whether or not the applicant has called in to, written to, or phoned the law centre.
(iii) On EOS, create an Enquiry case for the applicant using the details you have obtained. Put the case into the APP01.Application Received workflow. On the Documents tab, generate a copy of the standard cover letter and print on law centre headed notepaper. Sign the printed letter and send, with a copy of the application form and the Board’s Applying for Legal Services leaflet to the applicant.
If there is a specific reason that requires that an applicant be financially assessed in person:-
(i) Open the law centre shared diary (or application located on your Lotus Notes workspace).
(v) Advise the applicant verbally of the correct documentation which they will need to bring with them to the law centre for the application.
Dublin law centres only
Try to identify if possible, if the caller is seeking legal services in relation to a District Court domestic violence matter. If so, give the caller the details of the Dolphin House Service.
The law centre should process all other applications for District Court matters, subject to the normal procedures.
See Chapter 8 for further details