Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Services From Iowa Legal Aid

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded

To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid, apply online here or  call: 1-800-532-1275,  9am - 11am and 1:30 -3:30 pm, Monday - Friday,  except for Thursday afternoon.  If you are age 60 or over, call the Legal Hotline for Older Iowans at 1-800-992-8161 for help.

1.  What kinds of cases does Iowa Legal Aid take?
  • Iowa Legal Aid helps with civil law problems. These topics on our website are an overview::Legal Topics
  • The types of cases include housing, government benefits, health insurance, education, consumer, domestic abuse, and other civil law cases.

  • We can't advise or help people with current criminal charges or appeals, probation, or parole issues. We can help with expungement of old criminal records.

  • Due to limited staff we can't help with all cases. Here are some cases we can't take

2.  Does Iowa Legal Aid represent people in court?
  • I was told that I qualify for your services, so why aren’t you representing me?
  • Iowa Legal Aid represents thousands of people in court each year. Unfortunately, we cannot represent everyone who needs help in a court case. 

  • Iowa Legal Aid has limited staff and does not have enough attorneys to represent all who meet our eligibility guidelines.

  • Sometimes we are only able to offer free legal advice on rights and responsibilities, how to represent yourself in court, and/or provide self-help forms. 

3.  What is the income limit for help from Iowa Legal Aid? 
  • Iowa Legal Aid receives funding from the national Legal Services Corporation and other sources. The Legal Services Corporation and some other funding sources have income guidelines.  Our Board of Directors sets Iowa Legal Aid's income limits using those guidelines.  Our limits are based on 125% of the poverty level. 

  • Iowa Legal Aid receives some special grants with higher income guidelines. Some of these grants allow us to represent or advise clients about specific legal issues, like taxes and foreclosures. Other special grants let us help specific populations, like senior citizens or victims of abuse.

4.  Why do you count my household member’s income? 
  • Iowa Legal Aid’s income guidelines are based on the number of persons who live in the household.  Income of all members of the household is taken into consideration, except in some limited circumstances.  For example, when people are married, they are supposed to support each other. We know this is not always true and try to account for that. For example, when a client is being abused by a spouse, we do not count thespouse’s money. 
5.  Why do you count gross income and not take home pay?
6.  Why do I have to apply when I just have a quick question?
  • Support staff who answer our phones cannot answer legal questions. 
  • Often “quick questions” really involve complicated issues. The advocates must use their limited time to advise eligible clients and we do not want to give a “quick” and wrong answer.  

  • National Legal Services Corporation Regulations say we can only give advice to people who meet certain eligibility requirements.
7.  Why do you ask so many personal questions when I apply? 
  • We need to know if you are eligible for services.
  • We need to see if there is a conflict of interest.
  • Iowa Legal Aid does not handle all types of legal problems, so we need to find out what type of legal problem you have.

  • It helps us find out if you have other legal problems you did not know about  so you can receive complete and accurate advice. 

8.  Why didn’t you find me a volunteer attorney?
  • There are not enough volunteer attorneys to help everyone. There may not be one in your county who can take your type of case. 
9. I’m disabled; don’t you take all cases for disabled persons? 
  • Many of our clients have disabilities. Persons with disabilities must meet our income and other eligibility guidelines and have the type of problem we take. 
10. I only understand a limited amount of English. Can I talk to someone who speaks my language?
  • YES. Iowa Legal Aid provides interpretation services to clients and applicants when needed. There is no charge.

  • Several Iowa Legal Aid staff are bilingual.

  • If we do not have staff who speak your language, we provide professional interpreters.  

11.  How do you choose what kind of cases you do? 
  • We ask for input about our case priorities from the public, private attorneys, Iowa Legal Aid staff and Board members.

  • That helps us decide which types of cases we can take.

12.  Do you help people who are not citizens?
  • We can help all legal permanent residents, and some with other immigration statuses.

  • We can also help victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking, or certain crimes, to stop being victims.

13.  I live in Iowa. Why can’t you help me with a lawsuit filed in a different state?
  • Each state’s laws are different. Iowa Legal Aid is only allowed to have its attorneys practice law in Iowa. We can refer low-income Iowans to legal aid programs in other states.
14. I was told you can’t help because of a “conflict of interest.” Why can’t you tell me what the conflict is? 
  • We cannot give out the names of people who contact us for help because of Ethics rules.

  • Information given to us by our clients is confidential.  If we know information about a client, we can’t use that information against the client.

  • There are different reasons for conflicts including:

    • You contacted us for help with a problem involving a client of Iowa Legal Aid.

    • We advised the other person on the same issue.

    • The person you have a problem with may have contacted us about a different type of problem and we have confidential information.

    • Someone living with you or the other person may have contacted us for help.

Last Review and Update: Jan 20, 2021