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VLA income test

Information about how to tell if a person meets the income test for civil law matters.

What is the income test?

The income test is the level of income that a person must have to be eligible for duty lawyer services, minor work files, and new client appointments. It is used to triage people who seek assistance at regional offices, Legal Help, courts and other first entry points. It is not the same as the test for obtaining a grant of legal assistance.

A person who is seeking assistance will pass the income test if:

  • they get a Centrelink benefit as their main source of income, or if they have a current health care card, or
  • they are not supported by anyone else and their weekly income (after tax) is less than:
    • $850 if they have no dependent children, or
    • $1000 if they have a dependent partner or on dependent child (add $50 for each extra dependent), or
  • they are supported by a partner or other person and their combined weekly income is less than $1000 (after tax) (add $50 for each extra dependent), or

Note: Where a person is supported by a partner, this limit can be waived if the accused person cannot reasonably rely on that person to fund their legal costs. For example, this may be due to family violence.

Exceptions to the income test

Children and people in detention (including prison, police custody and psychiatric settings) do not have to meet the income test.

Also, the income test is not applied for duty layer services for:

  • Family violence intervention order matters
  • urgent family law matters
  • Personal safety intervention order matters (related to obsessed stranger stalking or where the person is homeless).

Where someone discloses family violence by their partner, the partner's income should not be taken into account when deciding if someone meets the income test. This is relevant to all types of enquiries, not just family law.

Information needed to assess if someone meets the income test

The following information is needed to decide if someone meets the income test. First ask if the person has a health care card, low income health care card or pensioner concession card? If they do, then they meet the test.

If they have not got any of these ask:

  • what their average weekly income is (after tax)
  • if they have a partner or are financially supported by someone (and what is their combined after tax income)
  • how many dependent children they have.

The following Income test fact sheet lists the income test according to the number of dependents.

More information


VLA Civil law fact sheet: Income test

Please contact Helen Askew if you need this information presented in an accessible format.

Civil law fact sheet: Income test (doc, 164 KB)(opens in a new window)

Information about when a person who is seeking assistance in a civil law matter passes the income test.