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Interpreters and Translators

How can I get an interpreter for my court proceeding?

You or your attorney must complete and file an Application for Appointment of a Court Interpreter. The application form is available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at:
https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/court-forms/. On that web page, scroll down to “Interpreter & Translator” to locate the form.

What if more than one of us in a proceeding needs an interpreter?

A separate application should be submitted for each party who needs an interpreter and for each witness or group of witnesses who speak the same foreign language.

Are interpreters available in juvenile cases?

Yes. There is a separate fillable and savable application form for appointment of an interpreter in a juvenile case available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/court-forms/. On that web page, scroll down to “Interpreter & Translator” to locate the form.

Can I get an interpreter for an administrative or agency proceeding?

If a person needs an interpreter for services provided by other government agencies, contact the agency. For example: Department of Corrections for a presentence investigation; or Department of Human Services for services to parents or youth involved in juvenile court. The agency will schedule and pay the interpreter.

Do I have to pay for a court interpreter?

Deaf or hard-of-hearing persons do not have to pay the costs for a sign language interpreter. For persons who speak a foreign language and need an oral court interpreter, the state will pay the foreign (oral) language interpreter. However, Iowa law requires reimbursement of the interpreter fees by one or both of the parties. The court will charge the fees as court costs at the end of the case. The only exceptions are in criminal cases when charges are dismissed, a defendant is found not guilty, or a court reduces the amount of fees defendant pays based on the defendant’s ability to pay.

If a person does not speak English and does not have an attorney, does that person still have to submit an Application for Appointment of a Court Interpreter?

Yes. Court staff may help a person who does not speak English to complete this form. If necessary, court staff will contact an interpreter by telephone to assist with communication between the person who does not speak English and the court staff while completing the form.

Will the court or state pay for an interpreter for parents in a divorce case who are ordered to take the Children in the Middle class?

No. Iowa law authorizes the court to appoint interpreters for legal proceedings or court proceedings. Although the Children in the Middle Program provides important training for parents and is required in divorce proceedings with children, it is not a legal or court proceeding as defined in chapter 47 of the Iowa Court Rules.

Can I bring a family member or friend to interpret during a court hearing?

No. Iowa’s court rules prohibit the appointment of an interpreter who might be biased in favor of or against a participant in a court proceeding, including but not limited to a family member or friend of a participant in a proceeding. See Iowa Court Rule 47.3(10). It is also very likely that friends or family members do not have the interpreting skills or extensive vocabularies in both languages to be a qualified court interpreter. You may bring a friend or family member to court, but that person may not act as an interpreter during the court proceeding.

How can I get a written translation of a court-related document?

To request appointment of a translator to do a written translation of a court-related document or audio or video recording, use the free fillable and savable form titled “Application for a Written Translation of Court-Related Material” available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/court-forms/. On that web page, scroll down to “Interpreter & Translator” to locate the form.

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