Documentary proof of means

Documentary proof of means

Proof of income

The following documents are required when applying for a grant of legal assistance, to verify a person’s income:

  • if the applicant (and/or any financially associated person (FAP)) is employed, either:
    • a photocopy of their latest pay slip
    • a letter from the employer setting out the amount of the person’s weekly pay (or, if their pay varies, the amount of the last four weeks’ pay).
  • if the applicant (and/or any FAP) has recently left employment, either:
    • a Centrelink separation certificate
    • a letter from the previous employer setting out the date employment ceased and payout amounts (if any).
  • if the applicant (and/or any FAP) receives a Centrelink pension, benefit or allowance: the current pension or health card of both the person and FAP
  • if the applicant (and/or any FAP) receives a Centrelink pension, benefit or allowance as well as any other income:
    • the current pension or health card of both the person and any FAP
      and
    • documentary evidence (for example, a weekly pay slip) of that other income.
  • if the applicant (and/or any FAP) is self-employed: the latest tax return, profit and loss statement and balance sheet or, if the business has been operating for less than 12 months, business activity statements.

Proof of savings and investments

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) does not require a person to provide their lawyer (if applying using the simplified grants assessment process) or VLA (if applying using the standard grants assessment process) any documentary proof of savings and investments if:

  • the person and any FAP has savings and investments less than $1095
    and
  • the only income of the person and any FAP is Centrelink pensions, benefits or allowances.

All other people, except those that fall within one of the categories of people for whom VLA does not apply the means test, must provide their lawyer (if applying using the simplified grants assessment process) or VLA (if applying using the standard grants assessment process) with documentary proof of both:

  • their income and any assets
  • any FAP’s income and other assets.

Proof of the person applying for a grant of legal assistance (and of any FAP’s) savings and investments includes bank statements for all accounts (including credit unions and building society) covering the three-month period prior to the date of the application for a grant of legal assistance.

If the person applying for a grant of legal assistance is self-employed, the lawyer must send a copy of the necessary documentary proof of means of the person and of any FAP to VLA for assessment.

If the person applying for a grant of legal assistance via the simplified grants assessment process has complex financial arrangements, their lawyer should contact:

  • Assignments Civil Law
  • Assignments Criminal Law
  • Assignments Family Law.

See Contact us for phone and email details for each unit.

Additional proof

VLA may ask the person to provide additional proof of income and assets, especially if:

  • the person’s lifestyle is not consistent with the financial information they have provided
  • the value of assets is in dispute
    or
  • another person has contributed to the person’s previous legal costs.

What is ‘additional proof’?

Additional proof may include:

  • tax returns and assessments for the two years before the application for a grant of legal assistance
  • bank passbooks or statements showing transactions for the 12 months before the application for a grant of legal assistance
  • annual company or trust returns for the two years before the application for a grant of legal assistance
  • rates certificates for the current year
  • proof of payments of rent or mortgage instalments for the six months before the application for a grant of legal assistance
  • statutory declarations about the person’s ability to pay legal costs
  • statutory declarations from people who help to financially support the person.

VLA may also require the person to consent to other people or organisations (for example, banks, employers and accountants) giving VLA financial information about them.

Circumstances in which these requirements may be waived

If the person applying for a grant of assistance is in custody

VLA may waive its usual requirement for a person to provide documentary proofs of his or her own means in any proceeding if the person is:

  • in custody and is seeking a grant of legal assistance
    and
  • they have savings and investments of less than or equal to $1095.

However, if VLA waives the requirement for the person to provide documentary proofs of their own means, VLA will still require:

  • documentary proofs of means of any FAP
    and
  • the person applying for the grant of legal assistance to include the necessary information about their own means in their application form.

If the person applying for the grant of legal assistance is in custody and has savings and investments greater than $1095, VLA will only require proof of assets.

If the person applying for a grant of assistance is a child or the matter is a bail application or will be heard within 7 days

VLA will not require proof of income or assets in summary criminal proceedings, bail applications and Children’s Court proceedings if any of the following apply:

  • the person applying for the grant of legal assistance is a child and there are no FAPs
  • the person applying for the grant of legal assistance is a child and the FAP should be disregarded for the purposes of the means test
  • the person applying for the grant of legal assistance has been remanded into custody and the matter for which the grant of legal assistance is sought relates to a bail application
  • the person is in custody and the matter for which the grant of legal assistance is sought relates to a summary case that will be heard and determined within seven days of the date of the application for a grant of legal assistance.

VLA’s waiver stops operating if the person is released from custody

VLA will require the person to provide documentary proof of means before any further assistance is granted if:

  • VLA previously waived its requirement for proof of means on the basis that the person seeking the grant of legal assistance was in custody
    and
  • the person is released from custody during the time they are receiving the grant of legal assistance.

The person applying for the grant of legal assistance or their lawyer must request the waiver on the application form

If an person wants VLA to waive the requirement to provide documentary proof of means, for the reasons outlined above, the person or their lawyer must indicate this when submitting the application for a grant of legal assistance to VLA.

Currency of documentary proof of means

The documentary proof of means of a person’s income and assets, which the person provides to VLA or their lawyer when they apply for a grant of legal assistance, is current for 12 months.

An assisted person must provide updated proof of means to their lawyer (if applying using the simplified assessment process) or VLA (if applying using the standard assessment process) every 12 months from the date of their first application for a grant of legal assistance until their case is finalised.

If the person’s financial or personal circumstances change during the time they are receiving a grant of legal assistance, they must:

  • inform their lawyer or VLA immediately of the change
  • provide updated proof of means.

VLA will deem that it has received valid proofs of income and assets if all of the following apply:

  • the person has received a grant of legal assistance in the last six months
  • documentary proofs of income and assets were provided by the person at the time of that previous grant
  • those documentary proofs are still current.

Urgent applications

If a person is applying for an urgent grant of legal assistance, VLA does not require immediate documentary proof of the person’s means.

The person must give VLA (if applying using the standard grants assessment process) or their lawyer (if applying using the simplified grants assessment process) documentary proof of means within 14 days of applying for the urgent grant of legal assistance.

If the person falls within one of the categories of people for whom VLA may waive some of its requirements for documentary proof of means (see above), the 14-day time limit will still apply to documentary proof of means of any FAP.

If in doubt about the proofs required

If the person applying for a grant of legal assistance, or their lawyer, is not sure what proof of means may be required, they should contact the Assignments Unit to discuss this.

Contact us for further information.