Whose income and assets are assessed in the means test?

Whose income and assets are assessed in the means test?

In the means test, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) assesses the income and assets of:

  • the person applying for the grant of legal assistance
  • any financially associated person of a person applying for a grant of legal assistance
  • any financially associated person of a child who has been appointed with an independent children’s lawyer in a family law matter.

Who is a ‘financially associated person’?

A ‘financially associated person’ (FAP) is:

  • any person who usually provides the person applying for a grant of legal assistance with financial support
    or
  • any person who could reasonably be expected to financially assist the person applying for a grant of legal assistance.

A ‘person’ can be a natural person or a legal person. For example:

  • the domestic partner, children or other relatives of the person applying for the grant of legal assistance
  • a corporation, association or trust.

We do not consider as a FAP, a person who is temporarily providing accommodation or other support to assist an applicant escape from family violence. In these extraordinary circumstances, the family member or friend's details should not be entered into ATLAS.

Who is a ‘dependant’?

A ‘dependant’ is any person who relies on the person for financial support. Such people may include a spouse, partner or child of the person applying for a grant of legal assistance.

Exceptions to the means test

The means test does not usually apply to:

  • a FAP if that person is the domestic partner of the person applying for the grant of legal assistance and they are separated
  • a FAP if that person has an opposing interest in the relevant legal case
  • a FAP if telling that person about the legal issue may damage the relationship between the FAP and the person applying for the grant of legal assistance
  • a child (that is, a person aged 18 years or younger) who is seeking a grant of legal assistance for a Children’s Court matter
  • a FAP who is the parent or guardian of a child (that is, a person aged 18 years or younger) who is genuinely unwilling to assist the child to pay for legal services
  • a FAP of a child (that is, a person aged 18 years or younger) who is seeking a grant of legal assistance for a Children’s Court matter
  • a child (and any FAP who is not a party in proceedings) where the child is separately represented in the Children’s Court.

Trusts

If an FAP is a discretionary trust, VLA will assess the assets and income of the trust.

To work out the financial relationship between the person applying for the grant of legal assistance and the trust, VLA will examine the following:

  • the legal framework of the trust
  • who has the power to appoint and remove the trustees and the beneficiaries
  • the history of the trust’s transactions, especially the history of the distributions of money from the trust
  • any changes in the trustees
  • any changes in the class of beneficiaries
  • the source of the income which the trust receives.

Corporations or associations

If an FAP is a corporation or an association, VLA will usually assess:

  • the finances of the corporation or of the association as a whole, as well as the finances of the individual members of the corporation or association
    and
  • the financial support that might be available from the members of the community who support the aims of the corporation or of the association.