Significant legal aid thresholds increase - More people eligible to legal aid

MONTREAL, Jan. 6, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The eligibility thresholds of legal aid are increased significantly as of January 1st 2014. The thresholds of gratuitous legal aid are increased by 15.3% and those of contributory legal aid by 10.5%.

For example, a mother with a dependent child, earning a gross annual income of $19,900, had to pay a contribution of $200 to qualify for legal aid to present a Motion for custody and child support. As of January 1st 2014, that person shall be eligible to gratuitous legal aid.

During the period between January 1st 2013 and September 30th 2013, the Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal (CCJM), who is responsible for the administration of legal aid in the territories of Montreal and Laval, rejected 1922 legal aid applications for economical ineligibility. In addition, 881 applications for legal aid were rejected because citizens had declared themselves unable to defray the contribution fees that would allow them to qualify for contributory legal aid. They were thus forced to give up their rights.

Senior citizens

For instance, an elderly person living alone, with a gross annual income made of Old Age Pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement had to defray a contribution of $200 to qualify for contributory legal aid in order to bring to court a case pertaining improper housing for habitation. As of January 1st 2014, that person shall be entitled to gratuitous legal aid.

The CCJM annually processes approximately 80,000 legal aid applications. During the last financial year, thereabouts 65,000 applications were granted. Half of the latter applications gave rise to legal services provided by the 110 lawyers employed by the CCJM. Private practice lawyers accepting legal aid mandates served the other half.

The CCJM offers its services throughout 10 Legal Aid Offices deployed as follows: 6 civil law offices, one criminal and penal law office, a youth law office, an immigration law office, a health law office and a multispectral laws office in Laval.

HOMOLOGATION ASSISTANCE SERVICE (HAS)

The government passed the Act to promote access to justice in family matters (Access to Justice Act) and created the Homologation Assistance Service, which came into force on October 10th 2013.

The Homologation Assistance Service is intended for parents who wish, for whatever reason, to modify arrangements pertaining to child custody or access rights or support involving a child or spouse (or former spouse), where the parties have previously obtained a judgment with respect to child support alone or child and spousal support. Only parents who agree on the changes to their judgment and want to submit a joint application can benefit from this service.

Parties need not be financially eligible for legal aid in order to use the HAS. The service is offered to everyone at a fixed price of $529, that is, $400 in fees and $129 in court costs, of which each party pays half. Individuals who are financially eligible for gratuitous legal aid are not required to pay anything and those eligible under the contributory scheme pay the lesser of the contribution calculated in accordance with the Regulation respecting legal aid or the cost of the HAS.

The parties must choose a lawyer to draft the agreement. The agreement is then mailed to the office of the court. Parents will not have to appear in court. The agreement is subsequently homologated by the special clerk and, as a result, becomes a judgment of the Superior Court. The lawyer sends a copy of the judgment to each parent.

Parents wishing to benefit from this service can contact their local Legal Aid Office for an appointment.

SOURCE Commission des services juridiques

For further information:

Me Isabelle Allard, iallard@ccjm.qc.ca
Director, Bureau d'aide juridique Maisonneuve-Mercier
(514) 864-6644, extension 235