Means test changes to financial eligibility thresholds

Means test changes to financial eligibility thresholds

From 1 March 2016 more disadvantaged Victorians will be eligible for legal assistance.

Criteria for the extended financial eligibility 

Applicants must meet all criteria to qualify under the means test.

Criteria Current 1 March

Assessable income: maximum net income (assessable income is the net income someone has once weekly expenses have been deducted).

No client contribution required

$255 per week $360 per week

Assessable income cut-offs for client contributions (assessable income is the net income someone has once weekly expenses have been deducted).

$364–434 per week $469–539 per week

Housing costs

No client contribution required

$240/week (metro) $400/week (metro)

Housing costs

No client contribution required

$240 per week (outer metro) $300 per week (outer metro)

Housing costs

No client contribution required

$240 per week (no change) $240 per week (no changel)
Childcare costs $240 per week $310 per week
Home equity $300,000 $500,000

Motor vehicle equity

No client contribution required

$11,280 $20,000

Allowable assets

No client contribution required

$865 (single) $1095 (single)

Allowable assets

No client contribution required

$1730 (with dependents) $2190 (with dependents)

The means test

The means test applies to most adults and takes into account:

  • money received from work, welfare benefits and other sources
  • other assets such as houses, cars and savings
  • weekly living expenses.

How we decide who gets legal assistance

The means test is not the only criteria for deciding whether someone gets legal assistance.

We also consider:

  • what their case is about and whether it is covered under our eligibility guidelines
  • whether the matter has merit
  • the likely benefit to the person
  • if helping that person can benefit the public.

Examples of how people could now become eligible as a result of the means test changes

Bob

Bob is 45 and owns his own home in country Victoria. He has been on a full disability support pension for 10 years due to a work-related back injury. He has equity in his property of $425,000 and no mortgage. Bob wants to spend time with his two estranged children and seeks family law funding. Under the expanded means test, Bob would now be approved for a grant of legal assistance subject to the requirement that he provide a charge over his home.

Sharon

Sharon is a single mother with four children and lives in one of the Melbourne growth corridors. She is not currently working, has no savings and receives a full parenting payment from Centrelink. Sharon separated from her violent husband a year ago and is seeking funding to obtain a family violence intervention order. Living on the outskirts of Melbourne, public transport is scarce and she relies heavily on a car. The car is currently valued on redbook.com as being worth $20,000. Sharon is still on the title of the former family home, in which she has equity of $350,000. Under the relaxed means test, Sharon would now be eligible for a grant and would not be required to pay an upfront contribution toward the cost of her legal assistance.

Coby

Coby is single with no dependents and requires assistance to obtain a personal safety intervention order. He is in casual employment, currently earning $750 per week. He pays approximately $100 tax per week and $300 in rent per week for his home in outer metropolitan Melbourne. Coby would now be eligible for a grant under the expanded means test.

Mindy

Mindy is 28 and has two children aged 4 and 2. She needs a grant of legal assistance to respond to family law proceedings brought by her former husband in the Federal Circuit Court. Mindy and her new partner have a combined income of $1400 per week (after tax), pay $450 in rent for their apartment in inner city Melbourne and $300 per week in child care costs. They own a car worth $18,000 and have $2000 in their joint bank account. Mindy would now be approved for a grant of legal assistance under the expanded means test.

More information

Means test guideline: VLA Handbook for lawyers