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Know the Laws: Iowa

UPDATED September 18, 2015

Protective Orders (Based on Domestic Abuse)

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A protective order is a civil order that provides protection for you or your family from domestic abuse.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Iowa?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a protective order.  Domestic abuse is when someone who you have a specific relationship with commits assault against you,* which is defined as:

  • any act that is intended to cause you pain or injury (and s/he seems to have the ability to commit the act);
  • any act that is intended to result in physical contact, which will be insulting or offensive to you (and s/he seems to have the ability to commit the act);
  • any act that is intended to place you in fear of immediate physical contact, which will be painful, injurious, insulting, or offensive (and s/he seems to have the ability to commit the act); or
  • intentionally pointing any firearm toward you or displaying any dangerous weapon towards you in a threatening manner.**

* IA ST § 236.2(2)
** IA ST § 708.1(2)

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back to topWhat types of protective orders are available? How long do they last?

In Iowa, there are three types of domestic violence protective orders.

An emergency order is issued only if the courts are closed (at night or on a weekend) and lasts for 72 hours, which should be enough time to file for a temporary and/or permanent order.*

You can get an emergency order by calling the domestic abuse program nearest you - see our IA Where to Find Help page, or by calling the Iowa Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-(800)-942-0333. 

Temporary orders are similar to emergency orders except that they last a little bit longer.  Usually you apply for a temporary order at the same time as you apply for a permanent order.  The temporary order will last until you can have a full court hearing on your application for a permanent order, which is usually within 5 to 15 days.**

A permanent order can be issued only after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story. It lasts up to one year and may be extended after that.  For more information, see How do I change or extend my order?

* IA ST § 236.6
** IA ST § 236.4(1)

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back to topHow can a protective order help me?

A temporary order can contain anything that the judge thinks is necessary to protect you from domestic abuse, including temporary custody or visitation orders.  The judge is supposed to keep in mind the safety of you and your children when deciding visitation. If the court finds that the safety of you or your children will be endangered with unsupervised visitation, the judge should restrict visitation, have it supervised, or deny visitation entirely. The judge should also determine whether any other existing orders awarding custody or visitation rights should be modified.  Temporary orders also must specifically include a notice that the abuser may be required to give up all firearms, offensive weapons, and ammunition if a permanent order is issued.  The judge can also give you the possession of any pets or companion animals that are owned or kept by you, the abuser, or by a minor child of either of you and the judge can prohibit the abuser from coming near the animal, taking it, harming it, threatening it, etc.* 

In a permanent order, the judge can order the abuser to:

  • stop abusing you;
  • leave the house or apartment where you are living together or provide suitable alternate housing for you;
  • stay away from your home, school or job;
  • not have in his/her possession any firearms, weapons, and ammunition;
  • pay child and spousal support;
  • attend counseling; (Note: the judge can also order you and your children to attend counseling as well); and
  • pay your attorney's fees and costs.**
The judge can give you:
  • temporary custody of your children and give visitation to the abuser.  Note: The judge is supposed to keep in mind the safety of you and your children when deciding visitation.  If the court finds that the safety of you or your children will be endangered with unsupervised visitation, the judge should restrict visitation, have it supervised, or deny visitation entirely.  The judge should also determine whether any other existing orders awarding custody or visitation rights should be modified.**  The judge can also grant you exclusive care, possession, or control of any pets or companion animals.  The animals can belong to you, the abuser or a minor child of you or the abuser.  The judge can also order the abuser to stay away from the animals and not take, hide, bother, attack, threaten, or otherwise get rid of the pet or companion animal.***
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

* IA ST § 236.4(2)-(4)
** IA ST § 236.5(1),(4)
*** IA ST § 236.5(1)(b)(7)

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back to topWhere can I file for a protective order?

You can file for a protective order in the district court where you live or where the abuser lives.*

* IA ST § 236.3

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