A Profile of Legal Aid Services in Family Law Matters in Canada

2. Description of family law legal aid services in Canada


2.1 Newfoundland[2]

2.1.1 Delivery of services

The Newfoundland Legal Aid Act of 1976 established the Legal Aid Commission as the body responsible for administration of legal aid in the province. This agency has established 10 regional offices around the province that have responsibility for delivering legal aid.

Newfoundland uses both staff lawyers and members of the private bar to deliver legal aid, although, according to Doucette (2001), the vast majority (98 percent) of both criminal and family legal aid cases are handled by staff lawyers.

2.1.2 Coverage provisions

Legal aid in Newfoundland is available for a range of family law issues, including divorce, custody, access, child protection, and child wardship. In addition, support cases, restraining orders, matrimonial property, and adoption cases are covered under certain circumstances. For example, support cases may be covered by legal aid if one party has a private lawyer; restraining order cases may qualify depending on the hardship of the case; and matrimonial property cases may be eligible depending on merit (Doucette 2001).

2.1.3 Financial eligibility

The Legal Aid Act does not provide specific income cut-offs for determining financial eligibility for legal aid in Newfoundland; however, general financial guidelines are given in the accompanying Regulations. The general intent is that applicants should receive legal aid coverage if they cannot pay for a private lawyer without having to dispose of assets necessary to their livelihood, or without adversely affecting the ability to support themselves and their dependents in terms of food, clothing and shelter. Also, individuals who need immediate legal advice to protect their rights and do not have any funds are eligible for legal aid assistance. Finally, individuals who are receiving social assistance are automatically eligible for legal aid coverage.

With respect to an individual’s contribution for legal aid coverage, the level of contribution, if any, is determined by a number of factors including household income, assets and liabilities, expenses, and dependants. Examples of the net annual income guidelines are: single person – $4,716; single person and one dependant – $5,808; single person and two dependants – $6,324; couple – $6,492; couple and one dependant – $6,960; and couple and two dependants – $7,416.

[2] This section was prepared on the basis of publicly available material. No response was received to the researchers' request for information from the Director of Legal Aid for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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