Final contributions

Final contributions

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) may require an assisted person to pay a final contribution at the end of their matter if:

  • the assisted person receives money as a result of their legal proceedings. Usually, the assisted person will have to pay the full cost of assistance. However, in calculating the amount payable, VLA will usually disregard:
    • a lump sum payment for child maintenance or child support in a family law case
    • amounts which the person must repay to Centrelink or any other organisation from an award or settlement
    • any legal costs incurred, but not paid, before the grant of legal assistance.
  • the assisted person acquires property as a result of the legal proceedings for which VLA made a grant of legal assistance. However, if the assisted person cannot afford to pay a final contribution, VLA will secure repayment of legal costs with either:
    • an equitable charge over the property
    • a statutory charge over the property.
  • the assisted person’s financial position has improved since VLA granted or extended assistance
  • the assisted person’s future financial position was unclear at the time VLA granted or extended assistance
  • the actual legal costs are either:
    • more than the estimated legal costs
    • more than the costs recovered by the person.
  • the person has not recovered costs.

VLA will review an assisted person’s financial circumstances from time to time to assess whether the person can afford to pay some or all of a final contribution.

See Charge or other security over an assisted person’s property for further discussion.

Final contribution calculation process

If VLA calculates a final contribution payable by an assisted person, then VLA:

  • requires the person to give VLA details of their current financial circumstances by filling in a financial statement form
  • applies the means test (including the provisions about allowable deductions and allowable assets) to the person’s current financial circumstances to assess whether the person should pay a final contribution and, if so, the amount payable
  • treats the actual legal costs in the same way as the estimated legal costs in the means test
    and
  • deducts from the assessed amount of final contribution any contributions which the assisted person has paid so far, and any other amounts received in the matter, such as Appeals Cost Fund certificates or costs orders.

How a final contribution is paid

There are two ways VLA may require an assisted person to pay a final contribution:

  • if the amount of the final contribution is based on income, then VLA may require the person to pay an assessed contribution by regular instalments (see Table 2), in the same way as an initial contribution on income
  • if the amount of the final contribution is based on assets, then VLA may require the person to pay it in a lump sum (see Table 3).