Children's legal aid
What are the tests for children's legal aid?
If the court case concerns a children's panel proceedings, the court will need to know whether:
- it is in your best interests for a solicitor to act for you and speak on your behalf in court
- you and your parents (or carer) could afford to pay for your own court case
- someone like an insurance company (instead of legal aid) could pay your solicitor to act for you.
If the court case concerns an appeal against a court's (Sheriff's) decision. This would be an appeal to the "Sheriff Principal" or to "The Court of Session". The Board will need to know whether:
- you have very good reasons for appealing or defending an appeal by the children's reporter
- it is reasonable to give you legal aid
- if you did not have legal aid for the earlier proceedings (in the Sheriff court) that you or your parent(s) or carer can afford to pay for your own appeal.
Will I have to pay for children’s legal aid?
If you get children’s legal aid, you will not have to pay anything towards it. Legal aid will cover all your legal costs. That includes paying your solicitor, and your advocate if you use one, and any other expenses such as expert witnesses (as long as your solicitor first gets our permission for these extra costs).
Advice and assistance
If you are a child, we have to look into the finances of your parent(s) and add them to any money you might have. We will only do this if your parent(s) are not on the other side in the case in which you are getting advice about. You and your parent(s) can use our advice and assistance calculator to check you will qualify.
You and/or your parent(s) might have to pay your solicitor something towards any advice and assistance they give you before you get it. This is called a contribution. If you might have to pay this, your solicitor will tell you before starting to work for you.
If you win some item or money in a case or are successful in stopping someone from taking money or something that is worth money from you then you may have to pay your soliocitor's bill from this. This is called "clawback" and your solicitor will explain more to you about this if it could happen to you.
Eligibility for other kinds of legal aid:
Civil legal aid
We have to look at several questions, such as:
- could a solicitor in Scotland do something about your problem?
- does your case have a legal basis?
- is it reasonable for the public to pay for your case?
- do you own any money or property and can you afford to pay a solicitor to act for you?
Civil legal aid is not always free. Sometimes you may have to pay some or all of the costs of your case:
- We have to look at whether you own money or property - and also whether your parent(s) do. We will only look into your parents' financial circumstances if your parent(s) are not on the other side in the case in which you are getting advice about. Your solicitor can explain this when you first contact them. It may mean that you and your parent(s) have to pay us a contribution towards the cost of the case, but we will tell you how much when we grant your legal aid.
- Legal aid usually only covers the cost of the work done for you. If you lose your case, the court may say you have to pay some or all of your opponent’s costs. (This might happen if, for example, the court thought you had been lying to them.) Legal aid would not cover these costs. You may want to ask your solicitor for more information about this.
- If you win some item or money in a case or are successful in preventing someone from taking money or something that is worth money from you then you may have to pay your solicitors bill from this. This is called "clawback" and your solicitor will explain more to you about this if it could happen to you (for example, if you are claiming compensation from someone after an accident).
No, as long as you are the person directly involved in the court action.
If you have any money or property, we need to know about that. We may refuse to give you legal aid if you have a lot. Or we may get you to pay something towards the legal aid.
Criminal legal aid
No. If you get criminal legal aid, it will be free. The decision on whether you can get criminal legal aid depends depends on whether: It is in the "interests of justice" for you to get legal aid. This means, for example, considering whether you really need a solicitor to act for you and explain what is going on in court, and whether you have a good cause. You have a lot of money or property that you could use to pay for your solicitor's help. Someone else like an insurance company could pay for the case.
You can apply yourself as long as you can show that you know what it means to ask a solicitor to act for you. Or someone else can apply on your behalf. This might be your Mum or Dad or other carer. Or sometimes a safeguarder (someone appointed by the children’s hearing or sheriff to look after your interests) might apply for you.
Yes, your Mum, Dad or carer can apply for children’s legal aid so a solicitor can act for them too.