Are you looking for free legal support in Australia?
Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be a daunting task, especially when going through a family separation. Fortunately, there are numerous resources and organisations across the country that offer valuable legal aid without the burden of hefty fees.
We understand the importance of having access to legal aid, regardless of one's financial background, and we hope this compilation will empower you to seek the help you need.
Here are nine places you can get free legal support in Australia.
With offices throughout Australia, Legal Aid offers free or low-cost legal services to the community. While some of their services are prioritised to assist disadvantaged and vulnerable people, they can assist people requiring legal advice or have certain questions regarding the law.
Their main function is to assist people who may be disadvantaged economically, have a language barrier, live in a remote area or may even be in prison. The level of assistance depends entirely on the actual problem, the person’s personal situation and their own resources.
If legal aid are unable to assist, they may refer the person to someone who can.
Further reading: What is legal aid and can I get it for my family law case?
Federal Circuit & Family Court of Australia
The Federal Circuit Court and Family Court provides a single point of entry for all family matters, making it easier and simpler for families to resolve their disputes and separate smarter, quicker, safer and with less animosity.
Their main aim is for separating couples to avoid lengthy, costly and stressful litigation, by promoting dispute resolution whenever possible.
But for cases that need to be settled in Court, this Court provides a more efficient way for separating couples to achieve a settlement. Using the expertise of specialised judges, skilled registrars, court child experts and staff, they’re also able to identify and minimise any possible risks to children or other vulnerable parties, and strive to deliver justice safely and effectively.
Some Courts also have duty lawyer services, who can provide advice to self-represented parties.
Pro Bono Centre
The Pro Bono Centre provides free or reduced-fee legal assistance to individuals, charities or any other non-profit organisations, who cannot obtain Legal Aid and cannot enter the legal system without incurring financial hardship.
They also assist individuals or organisations whose issues raise matters of public interest, are in the interests of low income or disadvantaged people, or are for the public good.
Community Legal Centres
Community legal centres are independent, non-profit organisations with centres across all states of Australia. They provide free legal services to individuals and communities, especially people experiencing financial hardship, any form of discrimination, disadvantage, or domestic violence and abuse.
These non-governmental organisations also provide non-legal support, such as community health organisations, housing services, and drug and alcohol related services. They have assisted many communities across the whole of Australia in metropolitan, rural and even in extremely remote territories.
Family Relationship Advice Line
The Family Relationship Advice Line is a national telephone service offers advice and information to anyone who is, or knows someone who is experiencing family or separation problems. It includes parents, children, family members or concerned friends.
The assistance and advice offered may include parenting issues, even after a separation, family law information, emotional and practical separating issues, family violence and child abuse.
Once the issues are identified, they may refer you to a range of other services that may also assist, such as Centrelink, a child support agency, counselling, family dispute resolution or a legal service.
Callers who have a hearing or speech impediment may call through the National Relay Service, and they also provide a line for callers from overseas. The information remains confidential and callers may remain anonymous should they wish.
Family Advocacy and Support Service
The Family Advocacy and Support Service is a government-funded organisation that has offices in every state and territory across Australia. It provides free legal advice and support for people affected by family or domestic violence. Their website is extremely informative providing useful information and advice on a wide range of family law issues, such as child protection, family violence and how to go about obtaining violence orders.
They also offer advice on all divorce and separation matters, such as making parental arrangements, the division of assets and other financial issues, obtaining spousal or child support and even preparing for Court.
Indigenous Legal Assistance program
Through a range of legal aid commissions, Community Legal Centres and family law specialists spread across every state and territory of Australia, the Indigenous Legal Assistance program provides a wide range of free services on all legal matters including family law.
They provide advice through information sessions, brochures and telephone lines to disadvantaged or vulnerable individuals or communities who meet the relevant legal aid criteria and guidelines.
Eight indigenous organisations ensure that indigenous Australians receive culturally appropriate legal assistance to exercise their legal rights. They achieve that through a number of permanent sites and courts in urban, rural and remote areas.
Commonwealth Legal Financial Assistance Scheme
Another useful place to get free legal support in Australia is through the Commonwealth Legal Financial Assistance Scheme. A wide range of statutory and non-statutory legal financial assistance schemes are also available from the Attorney-General’s Department.
Although each scheme has a different purpose, they are all aimed at people who cannot afford to pay their legal costs. Some schemes are however limited to legal representation costs.
Statutory matters apply to current and former Australian Defence Force members who are participating in legal matters arising from the Afghanistan Inquiry, anyone summoned to Court by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and also under various other schemes. Non-statutory matters include Commonwealth public-interest cases, or serious overseas criminal and child abduction cases.
Application forms can be downloaded and submitted online along with the relevant required attachments.
Initial Consultation with a Family Lawyer
As some of these organisations’ requirements and procedures can be fairly complex and difficult to understand and navigate, it can be helpful to attend an initial consultation with a trusted family lawyer, before applying for any free legal assistance.
Some family lawyers offer a free initial consultation which can help you work out what assistance you need depending on your individual situation.
Further reading: How to find an excellent divorce lawyer near me.