benefit from free legal support it is an important help when the economic situation does not allow to pay expenses related to legal matters.
A debt, a problem with the landlord, issues with alimony or even conflicts with a supplier are matters where a lawyer may be needed.
Free legal support is, therefore, a way of ensuring that access to justice is not restricted to those with less economic power.
Free legal support: what is it?
Free legal support is intended for individuals and non-profit entities unable to pay the expenses associated with legal proceedings. This support is provided in two ways.
It can be a legal consultation, that is, a consultation with a lawyer to explain how the law is applied in specific cases. Thus, people who feel injured (or who believe that this may happen) receive technical clarification and advice.
In addition to explaining your rights, the lawyer can also help you solve the problem without going to court. For example, through a letter or in any other way that can resolve the issue in a faster and simpler way.
This possibility only applies to individuals. In other words, non-profit entities cannot resort to legal consultation.
THE legal protection also includes legal aid🇧🇷 In this case, free legal support can go through the appointment of a lawyer and payment of his/her feess. This support can be provided by a trainee lawyer or a solicitor, depending on the type of case.
Thus, and if you are unable to pay a lawyer, you will be entitled to one appointed by the Bar Association and paid by the Ministry of Justice. You also have the option of paying these fees in instalments.
In cases where free legal assistance is related to criminal proceedings or administrative offences, an official defender is appointed. The Ministry of Justice pays for the services of this lawyer.
if the issue is related, for example, to a lien, a bailiff will be chosen to handle enforcement procedures.
Free legal support it can mean waiving the payment of court fees such as court fees and legal fees. In other cases, the possibility of making these payments in installments is given.
Who can ask for free legal assistance?
Legal aid is available to individuals and non-profit entities. In the first case, it covers Portuguese and European Union citizens, but also foreigners and stateless persons. They must have a valid residence permit in a Member State of the European Union (EU) that offers the same right to Portuguese citizens.
It also applies to persons domiciled or habitually resident in an EU country, even if the process does not take place in that country.
Non-profit entities can be associations, foundations, cooperatives, unions and religious institutions. Legal persons only apply the possibility of waiving the court fee and procedural charges and the appointment and payment of a lawyer or enforcement agent.
Economic insufficiency is a condition of access
Both individuals and the referred entities are only entitled to free legal aid if they prove that they do not have the economic capacity to pay the expenses related to the lawsuit.
To assess this inability the income, assets and permanent expenditure of the household are taken into account.
To make it easier to see if you are entitled to legal aid, he can use the simulator which is available on the Social Security website.
How to ask for support?
To request it is necessary to gather the documentation that proves the financial insufficiency and fill in and sign the MOD PJ 1 form – DGSS🇧🇷 You must tick the field “4.2 Legal aid”.
You can deliver all the documentation in person or send it by post. Due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic, you will have to schedule the service if you choose to go to a counter.
In any case, it will be convenient to find out about the correct place to go or where to send the documentation. Look here the contact centers of the call centers of Social Security.
Ask for free legal support it has no cost.
Find out what documents are needed
Thus, and for the application to be evaluated, you must gather the documents that prove your identity and economic situation:
- Photocopy of the identification document (citizen card, identity card or residence permit, if you are a foreigner;
- Last IRS statement you filed and the settlement note;
- If you do not have a tax return, you must submit a certificate from the Finance Department attesting that you have no income;
- Salary receipts from the last 6 months (if you are an employee);
- If you are self-employed, you must submit VAT returns for the last 2 months, proof of payment and receipts issued in the last 6 months;
- Proof of subsidies or pensions you are receiving, if not granted by Social Security;
- Updated building book or the building matrix;
- Copy of proof of acquisition of real estate (houses, land, buildings);
- If you have shares or shares in a company, you must deliver proof of the value that occurred the day before the application was submitted;
- Booklets and car ownership records.
In cases where Social Security has access to information through Finance, it will not be necessary to deliver documents on income, immovable and movable assets.
Directors or partners with more than 10% of the capital of a company will also have to add accounting information such as VAT and IRC statements, balance sheets and accounting documents.
Non-profit organizations submit the form to the MOD PJ 2 form – DGSS, as well as copies of the identification documents of the entity’s legal representatives, updated statutes or articles of association and accounting and financial information. Land and car registrations are also required.
How long does the answer take?
The decision on approval rests with the directors of the District Social Security Centers in the applicant’s area of residence. The response arrives within 30 days.
If any document is missing, Social Security asks you to present it within 10 days. Pay attention to this deadline because, if you exceed it, your request will have a negative answer.
Social Security services are required to give you written notice that your application will not be accepted and give you 10 days to respond. If not, the decision becomes final.
When does free legal support end?
Free legal aid ends if the economic situation changes and you have the means to pay court costs. False documents or statements are also reasons for legal protection to end.
Litigation in bad faith (eg, lying, purposefully delaying proceedings, or an attempt to obstruct justice) is also enough to lose support. The same is true if you are paying in installments and miss the deadline. Or if, in a lawsuit to receive provisional alimony, you receive an amount to pay that lawsuit.
Legal protection expires if the beneficiary dies. However, heirs can by asking the court to recognize them as successors.
Free legal aid is void if, after one year, you do not go to any legal consultation or do not file a lawsuit in court.
Other ways to get free legal support
In addition to resorting to Social Security legal protection, there are other alternatives to obtain free legal support.
So, you can get information from the Parish Council or City Council, because some have this type of service.
Legal Consultation Offices exist in various parts of the country and are another option to consider. See the list on Bar Association website🇧🇷
Associations such as DECO also provide legal support to members. THE Pro Bono Association it can also be useful for those who need this kind of support.
Article originally published July 2021. Updated November 2022.