A Profile of Legal Aid Services in Family Law Matters in Canada
- 2.8 Saskatchewan
The legislative mandate for the Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission is provided under the Legal Aid Act and Legal Aid Regulations. The Saskatchewan Plan uses a staff delivery model, with 14 offices located throughout the province. Private practice lawyers are also used where the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission believes it would better serve the client. The current private bar tariff was increased in 2000 to $60 per hour.
The Legal Aid Act allows the Commission to require a financial contribution from clients who are able to contribute to the costs of the legal services. Further, a portion of any costs awarded to a client may be required to be paid to the Commission. Applicants who are denied legal services in family law with respect to financial eligibility may appeal the decision to the Appeal Committee, whose decision is final.
In Saskatchewan, most legal services in civil law are restricted to family law matters. Service to clients who are financially eligible may be provided for divorce (contested or uncontested), custody, access, maintenance, child protection, restraining orders, and adoption.
In addition to financial eligibility, cases must also be deemed to have professional merit. To decide professional merit, as stated in the brochure, Facts About Legal Aid (Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission 2000), the following questions are considered:
- Is this case one that a reasonable person of modest means would commence or defend?
- Are the legal costs of commencing or defending an action reasonable compared with the relief asked for?
- What is the seriousness of the legal or economic outcome?
- What are the potential benefits to the client?
- Is there a possible defence to a charge?
- Is there a reasonable likelihood of success?
- Has the client been co-operative, by keeping appointments, keeping in touch with the office after a move, etc?
- Has the client accepted reasonable professional advice from the assigned lawyer?
Anyone may be provided with summary advice and information about criminal and family law, regardless of financial eligibility, if the questions only involve a brief interview or telephone call.
Applicants in Saskatchewan are financially eligible for legal aid if: (1) they are supported by a social assistance program; (2) their financial resources are not above the social assistance program’s level; or (3) the cost of legal services from private lawyers would reduce their financial resources to the social assistance level. Applicants who do not receive social assistance may be asked to contribute to the costs of legal services.
Applicants are not eligible for legal aid if they have liquid assets (other than their home and assets reasonably necessary to earn a living) greater than $1,500 for an applicant who is single, $3,000 for an applicant with one dependent, and $3,500 for an applicant with more than one dependent. Applicants would also not be eligible if they (or a member of their family unit) had assets other than their home or assets reasonably necessary to earn a living that the Committee felt could be disposed of, mortgaged, or otherwise encumbered without causing undue financial hardship.
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