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Determining financial eligibility and calculating the income contribution

If the disposable income is:-

  • less than or equal to €11,500, the applicant is liable to pay the minimum contribution of €30 for legal advice and €130 for legal aid; and
  • if it is greater than €11,500 but less than or equal to €18,000, deduct €11,500 from the disposable income figure. The advice contribution is 10% of the difference (subject to a maximum of €150) and the aid contribution is 25% of the difference plus €130. 

The actual contribution is the cost to the Board of providing legal services in the particular case, subject to the maximum contribution. Maximum contributions apply to cases which it is possible to refer to the solicitors panel. At the time of writing, the maximum contributions are:

  • District Court family law case (other than defence of Care Order or
    domestic violence proceedings)                                                             €  417
  • Circuit Court Judicial separation or divorce case                                     €5,000

These maximum contributions apply to these categories of cases irrespective of whether the particular case is actually referred to a private practitioner or dealt with by a law centre.

Granting of legal services to persons solely dependent on social welfare

An applicant, whose sole income is social welfare, and who is otherwise financially eligible for legal services, is liable to pay only the minimum income contribution of €130 for legal aid and €30 for legal advice.

Most applicants who fall in this category will now be passported and will not need to be formally assessed.  Such persons may have been passported and if it comes to attention that their disposable income is greater than €18,000 the matter should be brought to the attention of Legal Services.  

 “Social welfare benefit or allowances” means any payment of a welfare nature, paid by either the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection or the Health Service Executive, or a combination of such payments, which is the only source of income of an applicant. The contribution payable by applicants who are dependent solely on social welfare payments from other countries will also be determined on the same basis.

Childcare cases

Applicants for legal services in relation to defending childcare proceedings brought by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) do not pay either an advice contribution or an aid contribution. It should be noted that this applies only to the defence of applications for care orders and supervision brought by the Agency and appeals to the Circuit Court. It does not apply to cases where the applicant is the applicant/plaintiff in proceedings against the Agency pursuant to parts of the Child Care Act other than parts III and IV (except where such applications are ancillary to the defence of the main child care proceedings) e.g. for access to children in care.

Domestic violence proceedings

Applicants for legal services in relation to proceedings in the District Court for a remedy under the Domestic Violence Act 1996 do not pay either an advice contribution or an aid contribution.

In order for an applicant to qualify for this exemption to the requirement to pay a contribution, the following criteria apply:

  • The proceedings must be in the District Court or on appeal to the Circuit Court. The exemption does not apply to proceedings instituted in the Circuit Court.
  • The sole remedy sought must be an order or a combination of orders pursuant to the 1996 Act – ie. a safety order, protection order, interim barring order, or barring order. The exemption is not applicable where, for example, remedies under the Guardianship of Infants Act are being sought in the same proceedings.

The exemption may be availed of by both Applicants and Respondents to proceedings.

Where an applicant for a domestic violence order is later served with proceedings for a different matter in the District Court, and the Court Office schedules the proceedings to be heard at the same time as the application for the domestic violence remedy, the applicant should not subsequently be asked to pay a contribution if they were not the party to issue the additional proceedings.

Recording a zero contribution on EOS

For both childcare and domestic violence proceedings, a zero contribution can be recorded by answering “Yes” to the question "Is this case defence of proceedings brought by the Health Service Executive for a Care Order or Supervision Order". Note that this will have no effect on the classification of the case as a domestic violence matter for reporting purposes as this is taken from the Case Type in EOS and not this field.


If the application would be suitable for passporting the "Passport this case" feature should not be used. Instead a blank means test should be created and the above question answered "Yes" in order to generate the zero contributions.

International protection cases

Asylum seekers who apply for legal services in connection with an international protection related matter must pay a total contribution of €10, covering both legal advice and, if required, legal aid. There are guidelines (in è Chapter 5) about waiving this contribution in the case of an asylum seeker in receipt of direct provision.

This applies only to matters connected with an application for international protection in the State (including leave to remain) and does not apply to asylum seekers seeking legal services from the Board in relation to any other matter.

Obtaining information from a PAYE payslip

How to calculate Sally Bloggs’ gross income from her payslip details

The gross pay to date is divided by the number of insurable weeks and multiplied by 52 (where the applicant expects to work a full 52 week year – see note 1 below for those who work less than 52 weeks)  to get annual salary. Income tax, PRSI, PRD (for those to whom this applies, mainly civil and public servants) and USC are calculated, in the same manner.

Gross pay to date is €3,600 and the number of insurance weeks is 6:-

3,600 divide by 6 = 600 x 52 =        €31,200

Gross annual salary =                      €31,200

Income tax to date =                         €120

120 divide by 6 =20 x 52 =                €1,040

Gross income tax                             €1,040

PRSI to date =                                    €270

270 divide by 6 = 45 x 52 =               €2,340

Gross PRSI=                                    €2,340

USC to date =                                     €270

270 divide by 6 = 45 x 52 =               €2,340

Gross USC=                                    €2,340

PRD to date=                                      €360

360 divide by 6 = 60 x 52 =                €3120

Gross PRD=                                     €3120

*Details which are supplied on the application form may not correspond with the details on wage slip. The details from the payslip must be taken to determine the income eligibility.

The formula to determine annual salary, for salaried or hourly paid employees who expect to work for the full year is:

Annual salary = (Pay YTD ÷ insurable weeks) x 52

Gross pay not net pay should be used to calculate annual salary.

Gross pay is pay before any deductions are made. The means test gives allowances for income tax (PAYE), social insurance (PRSI), the Universal Social Charge (USC) and the Pension Related Deduction (PRD / public service pension levy).   There are no allowances for other deductions from gross pay such as union dues, sports and social club membership, or health insurance subscriptions.

The same formula should be adapted for PAYE, PRSI, USC and PRD, i.e:

Annual PAYE = (PAYE YTD ÷ Insurable weeks) x 52

Annual PRSI = (PRSI YTD ÷ Insurable weeks) x 52

Annual USC = (USC YTD ÷ Insurable weeks) x 52

Annual PRD = (PRD YTD ÷ Insurable weeks) x 52

The allowances for PAYE, PRSI, USC and PRD are not capped.

Note 1: Where an applicant expects to work less than a 52 week year then the “52” should be reduced appropriately. See the section è “Employment” earlier in this chapter for circumstances where this applies. On EOS, you reduce the number of payment periods by overwriting the “52” in the “Total no. of payment periods expected” question in the Means Test Form as shown below:

Pay Period Weeks Screengrab

Note 2:  Some payslips may not show the USC or PRD Year To Date in the cumulative details section. Where a payslip does not display the USC or PRD paid year to date, the allowance should be given by multiplying the deduction for this period by the appropriate amount (x52 for a weekly payslip, x26 for a fortnightly payslip, x12 for a monthly payslip). The law centre should seek two recent payslips in these cases to confirm that the amount of USC and PRD paid is similar from week to week.

In cases where an hourly-paid employee works varying hours from week to week, and thus makes differing USC payments, it may not be possible to establish the correct amount to allow using this method. Such applicants should be asked to provide a Form P60 instead. Form P60s issued after 1st January 2012 show the amount of USC deducted in the previous year, which should be given as the allowance. Form PRD60 does the same for PRD deducted in the previous year.

"Department of the Commissions" Payslip Example

"Income Assessment Form" Example