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Legal aid

You are involved in legal proceedings and do not have the necessary means to pay the lawyer’s fees or legal costs? Under certain conditions, you can have recourse to legal aid that will fully or partially finance these costs.

What is legal aid?

Legal aid is a financial assistance that may be granted to you if your resources are insufficient to defend your interests in court in the course of civil or administrative proceedings, provided that your case is considered likely to succeed and the assistance of a lawyer is deemed necessary.

This help is not free of charge. It is an advance payment. If you receive it, you will have to repay the amount of the benefits received as soon as you can do so.

It consists mainly in paying the following:

  • Lawyer's fees (tariff provided for by the RAJ), and/or
  • Legal costs, in particular advance payment of costs

In which cases?

Legal aid may be granted in the context of legal proceedings, mediation or extra-judicial proceedings.
 

  • Judicial proceedings

You can benefit from legal aid in the context of legal proceedings as long as they take place in the Canton of Geneva.

It covers all or part of your legal costs (advances, costs of experts, curators, interpreters, etc.) and your lawyer's fees if his/her intervention is needed.

Legal aid does not cover fines, nor the contribution to the expenses of the opposing party (fees) which are set in the judgment.

 

  • Mediations

Some disputes and conflicts do not necessarily require action before the courts. Legal aid may also be granted for the costs of mediation before or in the course of legal proceedings, provided that you have recourse to a sworn mediator.

 

  • Extra-judicial proceedings

Legal aid may also be granted to you in the context of non-judicial proceedings, provided that you reside in Geneva and that the dispute would fall within the jurisdiction of Geneva’s courts if it were to become judicial.

In this case, it covers only the lawyer's fees (to the exclusion of all other costs) related to possible actions and negotiations carried out prior to any potential legal proceedings.

Your lawyer's fees are advanced to you only if his/her intervention is indispensable and if you are not able to carry out the actions independently or with the help of a competent social service. Actions that are purely administrative, are not covered.

Under what conditions?

An aid that depends on your financial situation

The granting of legal aid depends mainly on your balance on hand.

It is evaluated by the Greffe de l'assistance juridique when you submit your application, by deducting your incompressible expenses from your income (salary, pensions, allowances, etc.). It also takes into account your personal assets (movable and immovable property).

Any person whose balance on hand or assets do not allow him/her to cover his/her minimum subsistence, to pay the remuneration of a lawyer, or to make an advance payment of legal costs, can thus request legal aid.

 

An obligation to reimburse

Legal aid is not free of charge. You are obliged to reimburse the amounts as soon as you are able to do so.

When making granting decisions, the Legal aid Office evaluates the portion of the balance on hand that you can allocate to legal and court costs in order to define - if possible - the amount of your monthly contribution. It does not end with the trial but remains payable until a final decision is taken by the Legal aid Office.

In fact, after the conclusion of the legal aid proceedings, a final statement is drawn up. The monthly instalments you have already paid are deducted from this statement to determine how much you still have to repay. If the monthly instalments paid exceed the legal fees and costs advanced by the Legal aid Office, the overpayment will be refunded to you.

Reimbursement of legal aid benefits may be claimed during 10 years.

Additional details on reimbursement

 

A commitment to transparency

In return for the granting of legal aid, you undertake to be fully transparent about your personal and economic situation. You are required to inform the office about any change, under penalty of having this aid withdrawn and/or being subject to a criminal prosecution.

How to apply?

It is the Greffe de l'assistance juridique, in close cooperation with the presidency of the Tribunal Civil, which handles and coordinates the applications.

Step 1: fill in your application

Download an application form directly from our website or pick it up at the Greffe universel of the Courthouse, at the registries of the Tribunal Civil, the Tribunal des prud'hommes, the Tribunal de protection de l'adulte et de l'enfant or the Cour de justice.

Start to fill in an application form

 

Step 2: submit your application form

Send your application for legal aid by postal mail to the Greffe de l'assistance juridique or deposit it directly at the desk of the Tribunal Civil or the Greffe universel.

Your application must be accompanied by the required supporting documents indicated in the form.

Step 3: your application is processed

The Greffe de l'assistance juridique prepares and evaluates your case:

  • Your financial situation
  • The need for the intervention of a legal counsel
  • The chances of success at a trial

You may be asked to provide additional information requested by the office.

 

Step 4: the judge renders his/her decision and notifies you thereof

You and your counsel, if you already have one, receive the grant or refusal decision. If your request is accepted, the decision also sets out the restrictions on the grant decision and the amount of any monthly contribution you may pay.

 

Step 5: you can appeal against the decision

You can challenge a decision to refuse, withdraw or even partially grant legal aid in writing to the presidency of the Cour de justice, within the period indicated in the decision (10 days or 30 days depending on the matter concerned).

 

Step 6: an extension of legal aid may be requested

You may, if necessary, request an extension of legal aid, e.g. for appeal proceedings or appeals against first instance judgments. As a reminder, the granting of legal aid is always limited to a single instance.

Contacts

Address

Address

Place du Bourg-de-Four 3
Building C

1204 Genève

Contact details

Telephone

Opening hours
10h-12h

Mailing address

Greffe de l'assistance juridique
Case postale 3901
1211 Genève 3

Questions/answers

In principle, yes, provided that proceedings take place before the Geneva instances.

In criminal proceedings, the accused may be subject to the special regime of the duty defence lawyer. The magistrate in charge of the proceedings will inform you about this. Under certain conditions, the private claimant may also be entitled to legal aid.

The granting of the legal aid has, in principle, no retroactive effect and, save for some exceptions, only your expenses incurred from the time you file your request for aid, are covered by the Canton.

In principle, yes: legal aid which may be either complete or partial, is a reimbursable advance by the beneficiary, through monthly payments due from the beginning of the proceedings, in certain cases.

At the end of the proceedings for which legal aid has been granted and depending on your situation, you may be required to reimburse to the Canton of Geneva all or part of the amounts advanced to you (legal costs) and the amount paid by the Canton (allowances paid to your legal counsel), after deduction of any monthly instalments already paid.

If you were paying a monthly contribution and your personal and financial situation has not changed, the said contribution is due up to a maximum of 60 monthly payments (5 years), whether or not the proceedings have been completed.

The Canton’s claim is prescribed after 10 years from the end of the proceedings for which the legal aid was granted. The financial services of the Judiciary Power are in charge of the payment of the owed amounts.

Yes, a lawyer will be assigned to you under the legal aid system if aid is granted.

The mission of the Judiciary Power is to render justice impartially and to ensure the equal and fair application of the laws to all.

Therefore, it does not provide legal advice. However, you can contact a legal advice service, a trade union or a legal professional (for example, a lawyer) for legal advice in Geneva.

Access to the list

See also

Greffe de l'assistance juridique

Legal aid is a financial aid granted under certain conditions.

Civil law branch

The civil courts have jurisdiction to issue a final decision concerning disputes arising between individuals or legal entities.

Legal advice service and legal counsels

The Judiciary Power does not provide legal advice. You can contact the following associations and organizations.