What is legal aid?

Legal aid is free legal help for people with low incomes who are facing certain legal issues.

It includes:

  • legal information
  • legal advice
  • legal representation (a lawyer to handle your case)

Legal information

The information on this website is one form of legal information. It includes:

  • basic information about family law issues
  • step-by-step guides to legal processes
  • short graphic stories about people dealing with family law issues
  • short videos on legal topics
  • links to organizations and people who can help you
  • definitions of legal terms
  • a live chat option (with law students and others who provide information and help people navigate the website)

Legal advice

Legal advice is provided by lawyers paid by Legal Aid BC.

Family duty counsel lawyers can help you deal with your family law problems if you have a low income.

Family advice lawyers might be able to give you up to three hours of free legal advice for your family law problem.

Legal representation

Legal representation is when Legal Aid BC pays a lawyer to represent a person with a low income who has serious family law problems.

See Do I qualify for legal representation? and Do I qualify financially for legal advice? to find out if you're able to receive this type of help.

You can get a lawyer to represent you if:

  • you meet the financial guidelines,
  • your legal problem is covered by legal aid rules (see below), and
  • you have no other way of getting legal help.

You have to be able to say "yes" to all three of these points to qualify.

If you qualify for a legal aid lawyer, see What can I expect if my lawyer is given an Emergency Services Referral? for more detail about what they can do to help you.

Legal aid rules for serious family problems

You can get a legal aid lawyer to represent you in your family law case:

  • in emergency situations. For example:
    • when you need a court order right away to protect your or your children's safety and security, or
    • to sort out a serious denial of access to your children.
  • in other situations, depending on the Legal Aid budget and your circumstances:
    • to sort out serious legal issues in cases with a lot of conflict, or
    • when all other efforts to settle the case haven't worked and settling your case will make a significant difference to you or your children.

Legal aid rules for other family problems

Legal Aid BC has limited representation services for family law issues to help people who wouldn't normally qualify for a legal aid lawyer. Lawyers give clients the help they need to prepare for mediation, negotiate a settlement, or represent themselves in court. These contracts don’t include divorce. Call Legal Aid BC to find out if you qualify.

Legal aid rules for child protection matters

You can get a lawyer to represent you if:

  • a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a delegated Aboriginal agency has taken or has threatened to take your child or children away from you, or
  • there are custody and access issues related to a child in the care of the Ministry for Children and Family Development.
Updated on 23 June 2022