In court proceedings, low-income citizens can apply for legal aid to pursue or defend their rights.
Legal aid can, according to the legal regulations, in legal disputes before the
- civil courts
- labor courts (in judgment proceedings)
- administrative courts
- social courts
- financial courts
There is no provision for legal aid for the accused in criminal proceedings. Under certain conditions, however, victims of a criminal offense can appear as joint plaintiffs and apply for legal aid.
A prerequisite for the approval of legal aid by the court is that a corresponding application is made to the court, in which the disputed relationship must be described in detail and completely. The application must also be accompanied by a declaration of personal and economic circumstances (family circumstances, job, assets, income and burdens) with the relevant documents, for which the official form must be used.
In principle, legal aid is only granted for the time after the application has been submitted, for which the declaration of personal and economic circumstances and all necessary documents should be submitted as soon as possible. The substantive prerequisite for the approval of legal aid by the court is that, based on the personal and economic circumstances, the costs of the litigation cannot be met, only in part or only in installments, the intended legal prosecution or legal defense offers sufficient prospects of success and does not appear wanton .
If legal aid is granted, you will either have to pay part of the court costs or no payments at all, depending on your personal and economic circumstances. Part payments are determined by the court as monthly installments according to your income based on the legal requirements, whereby a maximum of 48 monthly installments are to be paid.
If your circumstances improve significantly, you can be required by the court to make payments up to four years after the end of the process, possibly up to the full amount of the court costs and the costs of your legal representation. However, if your circumstances deteriorate, it is also possible to change any fixed rates in your favour.
Legal aid extends to the costs of your legal representation if the court appoints a lawyer upon application, which is usually not a problem, unless the lawyer is not registered at the location of the relevant court. If this is the case, the court can only comply with the application for assignment if the lawyer waives reimbursement of the additional costs.
Legal aid does not exclude every cost risk. It does not extend to the out-of-court costs that are to be reimbursed in the event that the opposing party loses. This mainly affects the legal fees of the opposite party, provided that they are represented by a lawyer. There is an exception to this in the case of litigation before the labor court: in the first instance, the losing party does not have to reimburse the costs of opposing legal representation. Furthermore, the labor court can also appoint a lawyer in judgment proceedings upon request if the opposing party is represented by a lawyer.
It should also be noted that there are already costs for legal representation in the procedure for legal aid, which you have to bear yourself if your application for legal aid is not granted. The same applies to court costs that have already been incurred and are still to be incurred.
There is no entitlement to legal aid if legal protection insurance or another body covers the costs. Furthermore, legal aid can be refused if the spouse or, in the case of an unmarried child, the parents or one of the parents have to pay the costs due to a statutory maintenance obligation.
You can also submit the legal aid application to the court yourself without a lawyer, whereby you must describe the disputed relationship in detail and completely and provide the evidence. It is therefore advisable to hire a lawyer who can inform you in advance about the amount of the court and lawyer’s fees that may be expected