Eligibility for Assistance

Are You Eligible to Receive our Help?

CLS provides no-cost legal aid to eligible clients. Our eligibility requirements are based on where you live and whether you meet certain guidelines, which is described below. When you call the Helpline, we will ask you questions to determine whether you are eligible to receive our services.

Residency Requirement

To receive legal aid from CLS, your legal problem must have occurred in one of the following Florida counties: Brevard, Citrus, Flagler, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Putnam, Seminole, Sumter or Volusia. If your issue is not within our service area, click here visit the Florida Law Help pages to find a legal aid agency near you.

Eligibility Guidelines

To obtain free assistance, you must be eligible for services by meeting guidelines based primarily on income, assets, and household size. Generally, you will be eligible if your income does not exceed 125% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. In some counties and in some cases, domestic violence and elderly clients may not be subject to the income guidelines. There are also different guidelines for residents of certain counties seeking assistance with mortgage foreclosure.

You can send us your request for legal assistance at any time by clicking here to complete an online application.

You will need between 15 and 30 minutes to answer all of the questions in the application and your application cannot be saved part-way through, so plan accordingly.

Common Questions

What is Community Legal Services?

Community Legal Services (CLS) is the oldest and largest provider of free legal aid for low-to-moderate-income residents in Central Florida. Since 1966, we have been providing legal assistance and advocacy to help the people of Central Florida obtain the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, health care, safety, and education.

How can I get a lawyer?

If you need legal assistance, please call our Helpline Monday and Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m, and Friday 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Our Helpline staff will walk you through an eligibility screening process. If eligible, you will be provided with an opportunity to speak with a Helpline Attorney to resolve your legal issue. Most cases can be resolved with assistance from a Helpline Attorney. During your consultation a determination will be made if we are able to provide additional services. If you have a disability that requires assistance with an intake (ex. hearing impairment), then alternate arrangements can be made to complete the eligibility screening process.

What kind of problems should I call about?

CLS can help you with a wide range of legal issues including:

  • Consumer issues such as debt collection, garnishment, repossession, contracts, debtor harassment and other consumer matters;
  • Children and Education issues which focus on providing legal representation to children with special needs throughout our 12 county region;
  • Domestic Violence where our lawyers and advocates can give legal advice and representation for victims of domestic violence;
  • Elder Abuse/Seniors issues where senior citizens’ ages 60 and older who are or have been a victim of a crime and/or may have concerns such as living wills, financial scams, health care, and durable powers of attorney;
  • Family Law issues including divorce, child custody and visitation issues;
  • Housing issues including evictions and rental problems for both private and subsidized housing, foreclosure, and other home loan problem;
  • Public Benefits which includes a wide range of topics such as Medicaid, Medicare and private health insurance issues, food stamps, child care supplements, unemployment compensation and more; and
  • Veteran’s issues including the filing of claims for disability compensation and/or pensions, defending inappropriate discharge, discharge characterization or disability rating, applying for dependent and survivor benefits, and a wide range of other issues.

CLS can also help with probate matters including guardianship defense, wills, living wills, small estates, and powers of attorney.

Does Community Legal Services handle criminal cases or traffic court cases?

No, call the local Public Defender or ask the Court to appoint an attorney for you.

What information will I need when I call or come to Community Legal Services?

To determine eligibility for our services, we will ask you questions about your household income. Please be prepared with all of the papers regarding your legal problem.

What do Community Legal Services Attorneys do?

Our Lawyers are members of the Florida bar, eligible to practice law within the State of Florida. CLS attorneys specialize in certain areas of civil law. See our Get Help tab for a full list of those areas of law.

CLS is unable to accept every case due to the amount of legal demand for services and staff available. The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service (800) 342-8011 can provide assistance with those matters that we are unable accept.

Criminal cases are not handled because the state provides public defenders to represent persons accused of criminal actions who cannot afford private attorneys.

Also, the legal aid offices generally do not deal with cases where a person is seeking money as a settlement. In such cases a private attorney will usually represent a client without any initial charge, collecting a fee only if the client’s case is won. The attorney’s fee is a percentage of the client’s settlement. This is called a contingency fee.

Community Legal Services complies with the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Appropriate legal aid is provided to all eligible clients without regard to race, age, color, national origin, citizenship status, physical or mental disability, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, status as a disabled Veteran and/or Veteran of the Vietnam Era, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law.

If you believe that you have been denied legal services or otherwise illegally discriminated against based on one of the protected characteristics stated above, you may contact any of the following to file a complaint: