Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Services From Iowa Legal Aid

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Services From Iowa Legal Aid

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.

No, 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.

Iowa Legal Aid helps with civil law problems only. These topics on our website are an overview of civil law problems: Legal Topics. Some common civil law cases are housing, government benefits, health insurance, education, consumer, domestic abuse.

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

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. 

Our income limits are based on 125% of the poverty level. Here's why:

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. 

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.

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 the spouse’s money. 

The national Legal Services Corporation is our funding source. It says we must use the gross income, not take home pay. 

  • 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.
  • 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. 

Unfortunately, there are not enough volunteer attorneys to help everyone. There may not be one in your county who can take your type of case. 


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. 

  • 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.  

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.

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 other crimes with cases related to that crime.

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.

For information about legal issues in other states, go to

  • 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: Jul 18, 2023
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