2. Find out if your legal issue is covered

How do I apply for a legal aid certificate?
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2. Find out if your legal issue is covered

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) only gives legal aid certificates for certain kinds of legal issues. They cover some issues about:

  • family law
  • criminal law
  • immigration law
  • refugee law

Family law

You usually can't get a legal aid certificate to pay for a divorce, except in very rare situations. For example, where there are also immigration issues or where a divorce is needed to deal with financial difficulties, like qualifying for a pension.

You may be able to get a certificate for custody, access, support, or child protection issues. When deciding if you qualify for a certificate, LAO looks at things like:

  • how complex the case is, for example how many legal issues are involved
  • if the person paying support is self-employed
  • literacy issues
  • domestic violence

If you’re not eligible for a certificate, you may be referred to other LAO services, like duty counsel, advice counsel, or a Family Law Service Centre.

Criminal law

LAO may cover some or all the cost of your legal help if:

  • you've been charged with a crime and it is likely that you will go to jail if you're found guilty
  • you're between 12 and 17 years old and have been charged with a crime under the Youth Criminal Justice Act
  • you belong to a vulnerable group
  • you've experienced domestic violence and don't have a criminal record
  • you're in jail and trying to get bail
  • you could face serious immigration consequences if you're found guilty

Even if you don't qualify for a legal aid certificate, you may be able to use the criminal duty counsel program when you're in court. Through this program, LAO pays lawyers, known as duty counsel, to give free legal advice to people who don't have a lawyer. Duty counsel work in most courts in Ontario. If they aren't in the courthouse, they will have an office nearby.

Immigration law

LAO can help with some immigration problems. For example, LAO might be able help if:

  • someone is detained for immigration reasons
  • someone is appealing to the Immigration Appeal Division because there’s a deportation order against them
  • in certain situations, Canada Border Services Agency is ready to remove them from Canada

Refugee law

LAO can help with some refugee services. For example. LAO might be able to help:

If you’re not eligible for a certificate, LAO also funds refugee law offices in Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa. Lawyers at these offices can represent some people who qualify for legal aid services.

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Reviewed: August 23, 2019

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