Family Legal Aid Scheme launched to help "sandwich layer" and foreign spouses, serving 110 people on a trial basis in the past two years

The Family Legal Aid Scheme provides pro bono or lower fee lawyer services to eligible persons. About 60 lawyers participate in the scheme and they assist in cases involving divorce, domestic violence and fighting for alimony or child support.

The Pro Bono Service Office of the Law Society of Singapore has launched the Family Legal Aid Scheme to provide pro bono or lower fee lawyer services to two groups of local "sandwich" and foreign spouses who are involved in family disputes but cannot afford attorney fees and are not eligible to apply for legal aid.

The Law Society Pro Bono Services held a launch ceremony for the Family Justice Support Scheme in the National Court on Wednesday (October 19).

This program, which has been piloted since December 2020, is divided into two categories.

The first category is general income earners who are not eligible to apply for pro bono services from the Legal Aid Bureau, but cannot afford a lawyer. Lawyers participating in this scheme will reduce fees appropriately according to their financial circumstances.

The other category is foreign spouses whose children are local citizens. They are not citizens or permanent residents themselves and cannot apply for assistance from the Legal Aid Bureau. Once they pass the affordability test, they can receive pro bono lawyer services under this scheme.

Since the pilot program, more than 300 applications have been received Since the pilot of the

program, more than 300 applications have been received. Of these, 110 were eligible for assistance, and most of the rest were referred to other more suitable channels of assistance. About 60 lawyers participated in the program, and they assisted in cases involving divorce, domestic violence, and fighting for alimony or child custody.

Meimei (pseudonym, 40), a Malaysian cleaner, is one of the beneficiaries. She has children aged 14 and 11 and officially divorced her Singaporean husband of 15 years at the end of last year.

In an interview, she said that her ex-husband, who was in the renovation business, used her identity to take out loans from loan companies and owed more than 1 million yuan over the years. Da Erlong put pictures of her children online and threatened to harm her and her family.

She also pointed out that her ex-husband spent most of his time abroad, leaving her and her children to face the mess, leaving her almost cornered.

"I was anxious and helpless at the time... but I had to think about my child, and dealing with big ear holes like this would ruin my child's future."

About three years ago, she found out that the fee for a divorce from a lawyer was between 3,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan. She could not afford the fee, so she turned to the Family Legal Aid Scheme under the referral of a social worker and obtained pro bono help from the director of SC Wong Law Chambers LLC. Wong Su Ju, who assisted Mei Mei, was one of the lawyers who was awarded an award by the Law Society for pro bono service at the ceremony.

Chief Justice of the Family Judicial Court: Helps fill gaps in the legal aid system

Speaking as the guest of honor at the ceremony, Chief Justice Wang Shaoling of the Family Judicial Court said that the Family Legal Aid Scheme can help fill the gaps in the current legal aid system and ensure that more citizens and permanent residents, including the "sandwich layer", as well as foreign spouses, can obtain legal aid.

In her speech, Lin Peiling, chairperson of the

Family Legal Aid Scheme, revealed that the Law Society's pro bono service office conducted a survey of more than 100 beneficiaries of the new scheme. Among the 36 people who responded to the questionnaire, more than 80% admitted that without the scheme, they would not seek any legal aid.

Information on the Family Legal Aid Scheme is available online at

On the other hand, the Law Society's pro bono office will be renamed the "Singapore Legal Obligation Office" (Pro Bono SG) by the end of this year at the latest.

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