The New Zealand Law Society
said Thursday it has received positive feedback from lawyers to a draft of a new family and civil legal aid application form proposed by Ministry of Justice
Among other things, legal aid makes sure that people are not denied justice because they can't afford a lawyer. The ministry said family and civil legal aid covers a wide range of disputes that may go to court, such as parenting arrangements, protection orders and mental health proceedings.
In an effort to cut down on paperwork, the ministry’s Legal Services Commissioner has proposed to combine five forms into one:
- civil general application
- family general application
- mental health proceedings application
- statement of financial position
- trust form
In a letter to the ministry and published on the law society’s website, vice president Andrew Logan said there appears to be a consensus that the draft form is much clearer and more user-friendly. But he also suggested further amendments to ensure that necessary information for assessing legal aid applications is included in the form.
For example, Logan said that appreciated that the information in the income section was drastically reduced. “However, some necessary information has been omitted. The Regulations prescribe the maximum levels of income for the purposes of determining an applicant’s eligibility for civil legal aid,” he said.
Logan said the form included some questions that many, if not most, lay people might not understand without legal advice, such as those related to interests in trusts. “[I]t would be sensible for the introductory section to recommend that applicants get assistance from (or at least consult) their legal aid lawyer before completing the form,” he said.
Law firm cooperative launched to help vulnerable Kiwis find legal aid
Bills to modernise courts and tribunals introduced to Parliament