Legal Aid: What happens If I can’t afford a lawyer in Singapore?
Let’s face it, legal fees and engaging a lawyer can be expensive. There are times when we need a lawyer, but we feel deterred because of the high costs involved.


At I.R.B. Law LLP we understand that even though our fees maybe affordable some individuals still may struggle to afford the representation of a lawyer. In such situations, legal aid could be the solution for you.


Institutions like the Legal Aid Bureau in Singapore will work with you, if you qualify for legal aid, and handle your matter at an affordable price.


How do I qualify for legal aid?

To qualify for legal aid, you need to be either a Permanent Resident (PR) or a citizen of Singapore. You must also pass both the Means and Merits Tests, which determine your eligibility for legal aid.


What is the Means Test?

The Means Test makes sure that you qualify for legal aid under specific financial benchmarks. It requires that your disposable income is not more than $10,000.00 a year, and your disposable capital is not worth more than $10,000.00.


The Legal Aid Bureau will calculate your disposable income by scrutinising your income over the last 12 months and after certain deductions have been made.


These deductions include your CPF payment, rent (no more than S$20,000.00 per year), and a further S$6,000.00 for yourself and each of your dependents.


What is Your disposable capital is the property you own or are entitled to possess, NOT including:
– Your clothing;
– Monies in your CPF account;
– Furniture;
– Items you use for work;
– Savings of up to S$60,000.00 if you are at least 60 years old
– An HDB flat owned and solely used by your family as your home, or a home used exclusively by you and your family that has an IRAS assessed value of at most S$13,000.00 per year; and
– Life insurance has a surrender value of not more than S$46,000.00.


In exceptional cases, if you don’t meet the requirements of the test but are still facing financial difficulty, the Legal Aid Bureau may give you additional deductions based on their discretion.


Some examples include deducting your spouse’s income from your own (if you are living separate and apart from him), or deducting a part of your income/capital if your income has suddenly dropped by a great amount, and you need immediate legal help.


What about the Merits Test?

To pass the Merits Test, you have to show the Legal Aid Bureau that there is a good enough reason to initiate, continue, or defend against court action.


What happens if I qualify for legal aid?

After passing both tests, you will be assigned a Legal Aid Bureau lawyer, who will work through all the documentation with you, and represent you in Court. He will let you know when any important events occur, and inform you of what you need to do throughout the case.


What type of cases are covered by the Legal Aid Bureau?

Legal aid will help you resolve civil, but not criminal matters. Civil matters include divorce, custody, adoption, probate, and tenancy disputes.


The LAB will not handle certain civil matters, such as:
– Family Court cases where the opposite party is not represented by a lawyer
– Defamation cases
– Proceedings under the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents
– Proceedings under the Small Claims Tribunal


What is the difference between legal and pro bono aid?

For civil cases, pro bono aid is entirely free. However Legal aid is not entirely free, but the lawyer representing you will provide you with Court representation at a more affordable price.


For criminal cases, you cannot get help from the Legal Aid Bureau. However, the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (managed by the Law Society of Singapore) can provide pro bono representation. Various legal clinics also provide pro bono consultation as well.


How much do I have to pay for legal aid?

It depends. The legal fees charged will be based on your financial means, the complexity of the case, and the total amount of work done. According to the Legal Aid Bureau, the total amount usually isn’t more than S$1,000, but it can exceed that in some cases.If you cannot pay the whole amount, the LAB will allow you to pay in instalments.


What happens if I lose the case? Can I still appeal with legal aid?

Yes, you can, but the LAB necessitates that you be prompt with bringing them your documentation.


Can I get any lawyer I want?

You will receive the lawyer the LAB assigns you.


Is there an age limit for obtaining legal aid?

Your parent or guardian must apply for legal aid on your behalf if you are under the age of 21.


How we can help

Here at I.R.B. Law, we understand that our services might not be within your budget. However, if you have any questions, however, or find yourself unable/unwilling to pursue your claim through legal aid, don’t hesitate to contact us, as our first consultation is typically free. We want to find out more about your problem and how we can be a part of the solution. Contact us at [email protected] or Call us at 6589 8913 to schedule an appointment so that we can find out more about your matter and assist you as best as we can.


The information contained in this article is provided for general information only and may not reflect current status about applicable law, cases, settlements or judgements. Nothing contained on this website or article is intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be construed as I.R.B Law LLP agreeing to provide legal services to you. You acknowledge and agree that your use of this website shall not create a lawyer-client relationship with I.R.B Law LLP.