Second line legal assistance is legal assistance provided to an applicant under the following formats :

- An elabourate legal opinion

- Assistance and representation whether or not in the framework of legal proceedings.

This form of legal aid means that the services by the lawyer are totally or partly free of charge or a so called “pro bono” lawyer. This form of legal assistance can be provided in the framework of ongoing legal proceedings. This assistance can also be related to the provision of a legal opinion, an administrative procedure, a tax matter and assistance outside legal proceedings, etc….

Whether one is entitled to legal assistance by a lawyer in the framework of the second line legal assistance is dependent on one’s income.

There are certain categories of persons that are automatically entitled to legal assistance: minors, persons detained in custody, etc. …

The fact that you don’t have to pay your lawyer or that you only have to pay him partly for his services, does not mean that the case will be entirely free of charges for you. Indeed, one has to take into account other charges and expenses such as the charges for a bailiff (or court usher), administrative expenses and the like.

Below you will find more about this.

Where ?

  • The Bureau for Second Line Legal Assistance 
  • Two lawyers and holds its sessions every work- day 
  • In the Court of Justice, Bolivarplaats 20/15, 2000 Antwerp
  • Between 2.30 pm and 4.30 pm

This depends on your income / revenues and extraordinary indebtedness.

You have to establish your income and your charges by submitting the necessary documentation.You bring this documentation along on occasion the of your meeting with the Bureau for Legal Assistance and you have to submit this in any case to the lawyer who has been assigned to take care of your case.

Among others, it concerns certificates delivered by the Public Assistance Office (O.C.M.W.) or certificates proving your unemployment, salary slips, certificates of the Tax Authorities and everything that is related to your indebtedness.

The B.J.B. will decide as to whether or not you will be assigned a legal aid lawyer.

Should you be of the opinion that a legal aid lawyer has been unjustly denied, an appeal is possible against this decision with the Labour Court (note: you only have 30 days to lodge such an appeal).The assigned lawyer is not entitled to ask you for down payments or fees without prior permission by the chairperson of the Bureau for Legal Assistance. Such a permission can be obtained when your financial situation changes in the course of the legal proceedings or when your lawyer is successful in collecting important amounts from the opponent part.

You always have to inform your lawyer should your income / revenues increase or decrease during the treatment of your case.

For a single person:

- Totally free of charge
Maximum revenue: EUR 1.226 per month

- Partly free of charge:
Income between: EUR 1.226 and EUR 1.517 per month

Married or living together or a single person having the charge of at least one person:

- Totally free of charge
Maximum: EUR 1.517 net per month (family income)
Plus 259,18 for each dependant
One person = 1.776,18
Two persons = 2.035,36
Three persons = 2.294,54

- Partly free of charge
between EUR 1.517 and EUR 1.807 net per month (family income)
Plus EUR 259,18 for each dependant
One person = 2.066,18
Two persons = 2.325,36
Three persons = 2.584,54

One has to take into account :
Alimonies, exceptional charges.

The following do not enter into consideration:
Rent to pay, loans, child support, water, gas, phone bills, electricity and other usual expenses and charges.

A. You only want to get a legal opinion / advice

You don’t have to bring any documents.

B. You come in order to obtain the assistance by legal aid lawyer( “pro bono” lawyer)

You have to bring along a few documents :

You will have to submit the following recent documents (the documents ought not to be older than two months) should you benefit from one of the following resources or should you be covered under one of the following conditions:

1. You receive a minimum living allowing from the O.C.M.W. (Office of Public Assistance) -> a recent certificate of the O.C.M.W. (Office of Public Assistance)

2. You receive a guaranteed income for the elderly -> a recent certificate of the paying body (note: this is not your regular pension)

3. You benefit from a substitute income provided to handicapped people (I.V.T. / I.T.) -> a recent certificate of the paying body of the Federal Department of Social Affairs in Brussels (note: this is not to be confused with the invalidity support provided by the health insurer)

4. You are in charge of a child that benefits from guaranteed child support -> a recent certificate of the paying body (note: this should not be confused with the regular or increased child support)

5. You only pay half of the basic lease -> certificate / computation of the rent for the current year (note: this does not necessarily concern a social residence or home)

6. You are an asylum seeker -> only with reference to the procedure relating to the status as foreigner / documents concerning your status as a foreigner + all possible previous negative decisions

7. You are a minor -> identity card

8. You are a person detained in prison custody -> certificate of prison detainment

9. You are mentally ill -> citation for hearing by Justice of the Peace / citation and calendar schedule before the Justice of the Peace

10. You want to submit an application for a collective debt reimbursement scheme -> your identity card

11. You have already been admitted to a collective debt repayment scheme -> decision of admissibility (not older than maximum 6 months) / or certificate of the indebtedness mediator (not older than 2 months )

C. In all other cases

You need to submit the documents proving your actual family income and proving your actual family situation (documents should never be older than 2 months)

1. You are single and live alone

a recent certificate of composition of your family (not older than 2 months) said certificate can be obtained at the City Administration of the city in which you live.

In case legal aid is mentioned, this document is free of stamp duties and free of charge (this is not a certificate of residence nor is it an extract of the city register)

A recent document proving your revenues (not older than 2 months old).

Such a recent documents could be:

The last salary slip

A recent statement of the last payment of unemployment benefit

A certificate of the labour union( Trade Union)

An statement of the last payment by the health insurer or a certificate delivered by the health insurer

Your registration with the V.D.A.B.

Certificate proving suspension of unemployment benefit

Certificate proving suspension of sickness support

Tax return or certificate by accountant (solely for self-employed persons)

Certificate of grant of study allowance for the current school year

Certificate of receipt of alimony

Certificate of payment of alimony

2. You live separately and you have dependants

3. You live with a partner, without dependants

4. You live with a partner, with dependants

In such a case you have to take into account the following guideline:

A recent certificate of the composition of the family (not older than maximum 2 months). Such a certificate can be obtained at the City administration in the city where you reside. When legal aid is being mentioned, this document will be provided free of stamp duties and will be thus be free of charge (note: this is not a certificate of residence nor a certificate out of the City registry)

A recent document proving your income plus the revenues of all adult persons mentioned in the certificate proving the composition of the family (for example : your partner, adult children, parents, adult brothers , adult sisters , not related persons living with you, etc…)

These documents could qualify but they should not be older than 2 months :

last payment or salary slip

statement of payment of the last unemployment benefit or a certificate by a labour union – statement of payment of the last health insurance benefit or certificate of health insurance organisation

registration with V.D.A.B.

evidence of suspension of the unemployment benefit

evidence of suspension of the health insurance benefit

tax return or certificate of accountant (solely for self-employed persons)

allocation of study grant for the current school year

certificate of receipt of alimony

certificate of payment of alimony

certificate of registration for the current school year of the applicant proving school attendance and attendance by the adult children living with the family

What can a lawyer do for you?

Each and every one experiences at times a legal problem, be it in his private life or in his professional life.

Assisted by a lawyer, you are not alone to face these legal problems.

A lawyer will take your side which can mean a lot for you in the first place by advising you beforehand.

By seeking the advice of a lawyer beforehand, you may avoid to be involved in disputes or legal proceedings that could ultimately take the form of real personal dramas. For that reason your lawyer is also rightly called a “counsel”.

A lawyer can provide you, in a number of different situations ,with the following services.

We give a few examples:

The building of your house is going the wrong way.

What should you or what could you do?

Matrimonial issues: Can these problems be solved?

Discussions with your neighbours. How can you solve them?

You want to set up a business. What should you take into account?

Whom should you see to obtain good advice?

You want to settle down in Belgium or in Europe? Is this possible? What formalities and what conditions have to be complied with?

Can you become a Belgian citizen?

Another business person uses the same business name as yours. Is this possible without any further action?

You are being charged with a criminal act? Right or wrong? What can you do about it?

Your business is facing financial difficulties? What can be done?

You have been fired, or conversely you want to fire someone. What should you do?

How should a lease agreement, a sales agreement or an employment contract be formulated?

You have conflict with one of your colleagues, your boss, your neighbour, a customer or a competitor. How can you solve these problems without engaging in expensive litigation? Perhaps with negotiation or mediation.

A customer doesn’t pay you. How can you collect your money?

You cannot pay an invoice or you cannot pay your rent? What can be the consequences of this?

Maybe you can pay by instalments? Can additional expenses be avoided?

You want to donate something to your children? Will they have to pay taxes on this gift? Or can this be avoided?

You want to start a sports club. What are the dangers and risks? What format should your sports club take?

How should the by-laws be drafted?

In an organisation or in a company legal problems come to the surface or disputes between members and partners. Your lawyer can give you valuable advice, attend the meetings, mediate and negotiate.

Your children have played a naughty trick or prank. What could be the legal consequences?

Your house or your car is damaged, but your Insurance Company refuses to pay. Is the refusal justified? How can you prevail in this dispute?

You have been mugged but the perpetrator is unknown or he is penniless. Are you nonetheless entitled to compensation? And how do you get it?

You are a civil servant and you are blamed for a professional fault / professional misconduct. A lawyer will assist you when you have to appear before the Disciplinary Board.

When does the assignment of a lawyer come to an end?

Your lawyer will ask to be discharged by the President of the Bureau of Legal Assistance at the end of the procedure.

He can also do this under the following circumstanc :if the client refuses to give him clear instructions for a considerable period of time or in case the client prevents the proper implementation of the assignment himself.

When the client refuses to give a full overview of the income / revenues and charges.

When the client disposes over sufficient income.

When the client is seeking the advice of another lawyer.

When the case is clearly unfounded.

For all these problems and for many more you can rely on a lawyer.

A lawyer has had five years of academic studies after which he is to be a trainee lawyer with an experienced supervisor in order to acquire the necessary professional experience.

Even after their studies and their trainee period, lawyers regularly attend seminars, conferences and engage in permanent legal education.

The Bar Council itself organises part of this permanent legal education in conjunction with the universities.

A lawyer has access to all sorts of resources such as legal journals, legislation, official publications, data, etc. of which he is kept informed of the actual status of the law and the applicable legal rules.

Lawyers also dispose of a personal library and also consult the law library at the Court of Justice.

By their experience in relation to disputes and solving same, lawyers have become the ideal “counsellors”.

Lawyers also provide an additional guarantee.

Although they are independent, they are subject to the supervision of the Bar Council.

The Bar Council is managed by the Dean of the Bar Association, and the Members of the Bar Council.

The Bar Council will issue rules and regulations aiming at the correct, honest and efficient exercise of the legal profession.

Should a lawyer violate such a professional rule, the Dean of the Bar Association will discretely interfere in order to redress the situation and steer the case in the right direction.

In more serious cases, a lawyer can be disciplined.

One of the most important rules a lawyer has to comply with is the respect for professional secrecy or confidentiality.

A lawyer is under no circumstances entitled to communicate to others what his client has told him in confidence and trust.

Should he nonetheless do this, then the lawyer can be sanctioned by the Bar Council and be subject to criminal prosecution.

As a consequence, you can consult with your lawyer in all openness and confront him with your personal information.

Where it is possible, your lawyer will avoid involving you in long protracted expensive proceedings.

He may well advice you to end the dispute in the framework of an amicable settlement or a reconciliation with the opponent party or he will seek reconciliation with the opponent party and try to negotiate a deal.

Even if you have to make some concessions, a good compromise is often to be preferred over “bad” legal proceedings.

For that reason, ask your lawyer in the first place how a law suit can be avoided.

Should the problem not be solved in an amicable way, then your lawyer is the sole person who can assist you in these problems and represent you in all the legal proceedings before the Courts, administrative bodies, tax and other administrative authorities, disciplinary boards and pubic authorities.

Most of the lawyers have an area of preference in which they have particular experience.

In many instances, they have created professional partnerships and cooperations with other lawyers and law offices with the consequence that these partnerships and professional organisations can handle all sorts of problems.

Other lawyers are known as “general”practitioners.

You can see them for all your problems.

However, when they are less experienced with a certain topic or a certain problems, they normally will seek the assistance of a more experienced lawyer in that particular matter.

Ask your lawyer whether he is familiar or not with the problem that you are encountering.

Is the Government paying your lawyer?

Above you were told that in certain cases a “ pro bono”lawyer or partly free of charge lawyer can be assigned in your favour in a number of situations. In these situations, your lawyer does not always work for free. The Belgian Government pays a limited compensation to your lawyer. This compensation is a lump sum amount which is much lower than the usual fees and expenses which a lawyer in a similar case would charge. The compensation by the Government is less than half that which a lawyer otherwise could charge.

The Belgian Government is entitled to claim reimbursement of what it pays your lawyer within five years after its payment should you later be in a position to pay such an amount.

And what about the other charges?

When you benefit from total or partial legal aid by a lawyer, you should pay neither the fees of the lawyer nor his office expenses, or you should only pay part of them.

However this doesn’t mean that legal proceedings will cost you nothing at all. Certain expenses you might have to pay nonetheless, such as documentation, birth certificates, Court costs, the costs of a bailiff, the costs of the research expenses in the city register, etc… Your lawyer is not supposed to pay these expenses on your behalf, nor to advance them.

Should your income not be sufficient to cover the cost of legal proceedings (bailiff cost, Court dues), your lawyer can apply with the competent Justice or Court for you to benefit from legal proceedings free of expenses. In the language of the law, this is also called “legal assistance”.

Should the Judge or the Court grant this request, the State will then advance the expenses for the legal proceedings.

Should the Court however be of the opinion that your income is sufficient to cover these expenses, you will have to pay for these charges yourself.

In such a case, your lawyer will charge you with these expenses when he has advanced them for your account.