Frequently Asked Questions
Listed below are answers to questions about us and our web site. If you have a question not answered below, use the Feedback button on this page to contact us. You can also have questions answered by a volunteer lawyer, free of charge by going to Indiana Free Legal Answers.
- Who is Indiana Legal Services?
- What do Pro Bono and Pro Se mean?
- What's the difference between Civil and Criminal cases?
- What kind of cases do legal services programs handle?
- What is the difference between a legal services/legal aid program and the public defender program?
- What are the eligibility requirements for legal services programs?
- How can I find out if I need a lawyer?
- How do I find a lawyer?
- What if a legal services program will not help me?
- When should I seek legal advice?
- Why can't I ask legal questions through this web site?
- How do I find out more about legal services programs?
- How do I send suggestions for adding items to this web site?
Detailed Questions and Answers:
Who is Indiana Legal Services?
Indiana Legal Services is a not-for-profit law firm that handles civil (non-criminal) legal matters for people who cannot afford attorneys.
Pro bono is when an attorney volunteers to handle a client's case without charging the client any money. A pro bono organization is an organization that connects pro bono attorneys with clients who need legal help.
Civil cases are disputes between two people, or a person and a business or government agency, such as a divorce case, a landlord-tenant case, or an appeal of a disability. Criminal cases are always brought by a prosecutor against a person charged with committing a crime.
Indiana Legal Services handles only civil cases, not criminal cases. In general, Indiana Legal Services handles cases involving family law like divorce, custody, and support, housing issues like evictions or substandard conditions, consumer law like debt collection, government benefits, expungements, driver's license cases, elder law issues like wills and guardianships, some immigration cases, worker's rights and unemployment compensation.
Public defender programs handle criminal matters. In a criminal case, the judge can assign a public defender to represent the person accused of a crime if that person cannot afford to hire an attorney. Legal services/legal aid programs generally handle civil cases.
At Indiana Legal Services, the person who wants an attorney ususally must meet financial eligibility requirements relating to their income and assets, but for some types of cases there are no elgibility requirements. ILS also has to inquire whether the applicant is a citizen or has other immigration status.
If you are looking for a private attorney (generally, a lawyer you pay for help), you may want to ask friends or family members what attorney they would recommend. Most bar associations have lawyer referral programs; you can contact your local county bar association to ask for the names of attorneys who handle the type of legal matter you have. These attorneys generally are not free or low-cost attorneys. If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, you can contact ILS or other legal aid providers.
Be sure to check with all the legal services programs that serve your area.
You can find your local legal services program through the Indiana Legal Help link on this website. You can then contact that program directly to get more information about the program and its eligiblity requirements.