Free Legal Aid in Germany - Online Calculator - Update 2020

Low Income in Germany? Calculate If You Qualify For Free Advisory And Court Assistance

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  • 07.12.2017

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Have you received an enforcement order by the German ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice or a file-sharing warning letter by Waldorf Frommer or worse have they already sued you?

Below you can calculate, if your income is low enough for

  • Assistance under Legal Advice Scheme called "Beratungshilfe" in Germany and
  • Legal Aid called "Prozesskostenhilfe" in German.

Germany has since 1919 a Free Legal Aid system for the poor.

Calculating Advisory Assistance & Legal Aid in Germany

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There are seven things you must know before applying for Legal Aid and Advisory Assistance:

  1. What is Advisory Assistance?
  2. What is Legal Aid?
  3. Low Income
  4. Not frivolous
  5. No Insurance for Legal Costs
  6. Sufficient Prospects Of Success
  7. You don't speak German?

What is Advisory Assistance?

The Act on Advisory Assistance ensures that those with low incomes can receive legal advice and representation outside of court proceedings for a small sum of money. If attempts to reach an out-of-court settlement fail and the case has to be decided in court, then help for court costs - legal aid - is also available.

Advisory assistance shall be granted in all legal matters. In criminal law and regulatory offence law matters, only advice is granted.

What is Legal Aid?

According to the provisions on legal aid in sections 114 and 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the costs for conducting legal proceedings can, if necessary, be fully or partially borne by the State. Hundreds of thousands of people benefit from this aid every year, whether in landlord and tenant disputes, family disputes, housing benefit conflicts or for construction issues.

Any parties who, due to their personal and economic circumstances, are unable to pay the costs of litigation, or are able to so pay them only in part or only as instalments, will be granted assistance with the court costs upon filing a corresponding application, provided that the action they intend to bring or their defence against an action that has been brought against them has sufficient prospects of success and does not seem frivolous.

Low Income

The German administration of justice will only grant Advisory Assistance and Legal Aid, if the monthly income is very low. After some deductions for habitation costs, necessary insurances and loans, children and spouse etc. the so called "income to be used" must be less than twenty euros.

Anyone who has no assets and whose available income amounts to less than € 20 will be fully exempt from court costs and the cost of their own lawyer.

Here is an example:

A single solopreneur makes 1,200 euros net every month. He pays 500 euros to his landlord. In 2017 he can deduce the following two "Freibeträge" (Free Allowances):

  • Grundfreibetrag: € 473
  • Erwerbstätigenfreibetrag: € 215

Therefore he is qualified for Advisory Assistance and Legal Aid, unless his legal matter is frivolous and without prospects of success or his insurance for legal costs finances an attorney and the lawsuit.

Not frivolous

The application must not be frivolous. The senior judicial officer at the local court will verify whether, in a comparable situation, a person in a better financial position would also decide to seek legal advice or representation at their own expense.

Here is the legal definition for "Frivolity" in section 114 last paragraph of the Code of Civil Procedure:

"The action being brought or the defence against an action is frivolous where a party that has not taken recourse to assistance with the court costs would desist, upon having judiciously assessed all circumstances, from bringing an action or defending against an action in spite of sufficient prospects of succeeding."

No Insurance for Legal Costs

Alternative options for claiming assistance must either be unavailable, or it must be unreasonable to expect the person seeking legal advice to use them.

For example, trade unions and tenants' associations provide advice to their members within their respective fields. This means that, if you are a member of one of these organisations, you must exhaust these possibilities first.

Government authorities such as social security offices, job centres and youth welfare offices are also legally required to provide information and advice.

Applicants with an Insurance for Legal Costs will only get Advisory Assistance or Legal Aid if the insurance will not cover the advisory and litigation costs.

Sufficient Prospects Of Success

The local court will only grant Legal Aid if the intended legal action or defence has a reasonable chance of success. In Advisory Assistance this is no issue.

You don't speak German?

So you don't speak German, right?

The application forms for Advisory Assistance and Legal Aid are written in German. You need to provide all necessary information about your identity, your income situation(including any persons you support), your personal assets, living costs, maintenance payments for legal dependants, and any other particular burdens (e.g. due to physical disability; large payment obligations) in German.

My law firm can do this job for you, provided

  • The legal matter is the defence against an unfair competitor or against a copyright infringement warning letter e.g. from Waldorf Frommer.
  • You scan all necessary papers and documents and
  • you speak one of my favourite languages:
    • English,
    • Spanish or
    • French

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Rainer Wiesehahn
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