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Legal Information: Iowa

Iowa Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

A restraining order or protective order is a legal order issued by a state court which requires one person to stop harming another. In Iowa, there are protective orders based on domestic violence and protective orders based on elder abuse.

Protective Orders (Based on Domestic Abuse)

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

Basic information

What 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,1 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.2

1 IA ST § 236.2(2)
2 IA ST § 708.1(2)

What 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.1

You can get an emergency order by calling the domestic abuse program nearest you - see our IA Places that 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.2

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?

1 IA ST § 236.6
2 IA ST § 236.4(1)

What protections can I get in a protective order?

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.1

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.2

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.2 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.3

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

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

Where 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.1

1 IA ST § 236.3

Who can get a protective order

Am I eligible to file for a protective order?

You can file for a protective order from domestic abuse against any of the following people:

  • a family or household member who you lived with at the time of the abuse or at anytime within the past year. (Note: “Family or household members” means your spouse, someone you live with, your parent, or another person you are related to by blood or marriage);
  • an ex-spouse who you are separated from or divorced from;
  • someone you have a child in common with (even if you were never married and never lived together); or
  • someone you have/ had an intimate relationship with and have had contact with during the year before the abuse. (Note: An “intimate relationship” means a significant romantic involvement, not necessarily a sexual one).1

1 IA ST § 236.2(2),(4),(5)

Can I get an order for protection against a same-sex partner?

In Iowa, you may apply for a protective order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to file for a protective order?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic abuse, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Iowa?

You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

Can I get a protective order against a minor?

Yes. If you file for a protective order against a person under 17 years old, the district court will waive (give up) its jurisdiction and turn it over to juvenile court.1

1 IA ST § 236.3

Can I get a protective order if I'm a minor?

If you are a minor (under 18) you will need to have a parent or guardian file for a protective order on your behalf.1

1 IA ST § 236.3

How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

The filing fee and court costs for an order for protection are waived for the plaintiff so it won't cost you anything to apply for an order. It will not cost you anything to have your papers served to your abuser, either.

When an order for protection is entered by the court, the court may direct the defendant (the abuser) to pay to the clerk of court the plaintiff's filing fees and reasonable costs of service of process if the court determines the defendant has the ability to pay the plaintiff's fees and costs.1

You do not need a lawyer to get a protective order, but it may be in your interest to hire an attorney if your abuser is represented by one.  A domestic violence organization in your area may be able to refer you to an attorney or legal aid service who will take your case for free.  Go to our IA Places that Help page for a list of organizations in your area.

1 IA ST § 236.3

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

What if I don't qualify for a protective order?

If the abuser has been arrested, you may be able to get a no contact order. A no contact order is issued in criminal court following the arrest for domestic abuse, assault, stalking, harassment, sexual abuse, or violation of a protective order.1 The victim does not need to file for this, as a judge will automatically consider it. The judge may give the abuser a no contact order before the abuser leaves the jail where s/he was held after the arrest.

A no-contact order could restrict the defendant from having contact with you (the victim), anyone living with you, or your immediate family -- this could include children that you have with the abuser. A no-contact order that requires the defendant to have no contact with your children will win out over any existing order which may conflict with the no-contact order (such as a visitation order).
A no-contact order is also supposed to specifically include notice that the abuser may be required to give up all firearms, offensive weapons, and ammunition if a permanent no-contact order is issued.2Note: A no contact order from a criminal case cannot give you custody of minor children. To get legal custody of children, you need to start a different case in civil court.

Each order is a little different so you should read it carefully and ask the county attorney if you have questions about what can or should happen.

Many victims fear that the no contact order will only make the abuser angrier. If you are concerned about this, you should talk to a domestic violence victim advocate and the county attorney. They may be able to help you develop a safety plan or may ask the judge to change the order so that it will not be as upsetting to the abuser. A no contact order should protect you anywhere you go in the United States.

1 IA ST § 664A.3(1)
2 IA ST § 664A.3(1), (4) - (6)

Steps for getting a protective order

Step 1: Go to court and request a petition.

Go to the courthouse in your county or the county where the abuser lives.  Find the office of the Clerk of Court. Tell them that you are there to file a petition for a temporary and permanent protection order.  You can find a court near you by going to our IA Courthouse Locations page.  You can also find links to petitions online by going to our IA Download Court Forms page.

Step 2: Fill out the petition.

Carefully fill out the petition.  It is an important legal document.  Read it carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand something.  Write about the incidents of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation.  Be specific.  Include details and dates, if possible.  A domestic violence organization may be able to provide you with help filling out the form.  See IA Places that Help for the location of an organization near you.

Do not sign the form when you are finished. It must be signed in front of a notary public. There should be a notary public in the courthouse.  Be sure to bring a picture ID.

Step 3: A judge will review your petition.

After you finish filling out your petition, bring it to the court clerk. The clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may wish to ask you questions as he or she reviews your petition. The judge will decide whether or not to issue the temporary order, and if you seek a permanent order the judge will set a date for a hearing. You will be given papers that state the time and date of your hearing for a permanent order.

If the judge issues you a temporary order the clerk must give it to the 911 dispatcher in the county it was issued. This is also true of permanent and emergency orders. Police and other law enforcement agencies anywhere in the state can find out about your order by checking a computerized registry of orders.

Step 4: Service of process

A protective order is not valid until it is served. Generally, a sheriff will try to serve the abuser with a notice of hearing and with any temporary or emergency protective orders that a judge has granted you. However, if the abuser comes into contact with law enforcement for any reason before the order is served (e.g., for a traffic stop), the sheriff or any law enforcement officer can "serve" the abuser with a short-form notification in lieu of the order.1 A short-form notification would, among other things, notify the abuser of the prohibited behavior, the risk of arrest for a violation, and put the obligation on the abuser to get a full copy of the protective order from court. The sheriff/officer can hold him/her long enough to complete service of the short-form order and then the sheriff/officer is supposed to file proof of service in court.2

Usually the court will send copies of the order and notice of hearing to the police or sheriff, but in some areas you may have to bring the papers to the sheriff or police yourself. You can ask the court clerk or a domestic violence organization for more information about serving the abuser. Do not try and serve the abuser in person with the papers yourself. If you register, there is an automatic protective order victim notification system that will notify you, your family members, and other interested parties (by telephone or some other way) of the date and time of service of a protective order on the abuser. The notification system is coordinated by the crime victim assistance division of the department of justice. Your protective order paperwork should include a section that allows you to register to get notified.3

1 IA ST §§ 236.3(3)(b); 664A.4A(1),(2)
2 IA ST § 664A.4A(3),(4)
3 IA ST § 915.52(1),(2),(4)

Step 5: What will I have to prove at the hearing?

As the petitioner requesting the protective order, you must prove that the abuser:

  • Physically abused you; OR
  • Pointed a gun at you or menaced you with a dangerous weapon (such as a knife); OR
  • Threatened you with physical contact that would cause you pain or injury AND the threat put you in fear AND the threat could be carried out immediately.

See the Preparing your Case section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.

Step 6: The Hearing

You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire and you will have to start the process over. If you do not show up at the hearing it may be harder for you to be granted an order in the future.

If the abuser does not show up for the hearing the judge may still grant you a protective order, or the judge may order a new hearing date.

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Iowa have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

 

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse.  If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the protective order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number.

One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the protective order from the clerk.

You may also wish to make a safety plan. Women can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Click on the following link for suggestions on Safety Tips. (You can access the staying safe information any time from the WomensLaw.org Home page.)

I was not granted a protective order. What can I do?

If you are not granted protective order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Safety Tips page. You will find a list of Iowa resources on our Places that Help page.

If you were not granted protective order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify, you may be able to seek protection through a criminal no contact order. See What if I don't qualify for a protective order?

You may also be able to reapply for a protective order if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.  If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal.   Here is basic information on Filing Appeals. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.

What can I do if the abuser violates the order?

Violating a protective order is against the law. There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the protective order.

Through the Police or Sheriff (Criminal)
If the abuser violates the protective order, you can call 911 even if you think it is a minor violation. In some cases, the abuser can be arrested right away. Tell the officers you have a protective order and the abuser is violating it. The abuser can be arrested and prosecuted for the crime of violating the order in addition to any crimes s/he committed while violating it (such as assault, stalking, etc.)

It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case. You may want to make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made. If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it may help you have the order extended or modified in the future.

Through the Civil Court System (Civil)
You may file for civil contempt in the court that issued the order if the abuser violates the order in any way. To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk's office and tell him/her you want to start contempt proceedings against the abuser. You will have to fill out some forms, which the court clerk will give you. You will also have to attend a court hearing to prove that the abuser violated the order.

Can I "violate" my own order?

Yes. In most states, a petitioner cannot "violate" his/her own order since the order puts limits on an abuser's behavior, not the victim's behavior. However, in Iowa, victims with protective orders can be held in contempt for "aiding and abetting" in the violation of their own protective orders. Basically, this means that if you have a no contact order or a stay away order and you decide to still talk to the abuser or see him/her, you can be charged with helping the abuser violate the order.

1 See Henley v. Iowa District Court for Emmet County, 533 N.W. 2d 199 (1995).

How do I change or extend my order?

To modify your order, go back to the court where you got it and file a petition with the clerk. Only a judge can modify or terminate a protective order. The court may be less willing to offer you its protection in the future if you have an order dismissed.

A judge may extend your order by granting a renewal for up to one year. You may have it renewed more than once. You must fill out the "Request to Cancel or Change a Chapter 236 Protective Order” form. You must submit this form to the court before your first order expires. The Iowa court system has a booklet that discusses extending an order (click on the first link called "protect yourself from domestic violence.")

You will have to attend a short court hearing (which the abuser will also attend) where you must prove to the court that the abuser is still a threat to your safety.

What happens if I move?

If you move within Iowa, your order will still be valid and good. It is a good idea to call the clerk to change your address.

Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "Full Faith and Credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protective order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands. Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor (district attorney) in your area.

If you are moving out of state, you should call the domestic violence program in the state where you are going to find out how that state treats out-of-state orders. If you are moving to a new state, you may also call the National Center on Full Faith and Credit (1-800-903-0111) for information on enforcing your order there.

Note: Civil protective orders may not be enforceable on military bases, and military protective orders may not be enforceable off base. Please check with your local police department, court clerk, and/or domestic violence advocate for more details. Please see our Military Info page for more information.

Sexual Abuse Protective Orders

A sexual abuse protective order can protect you from harm if you are a victim of sexual abuse.

Basic info and definitions

What is a sexual abuse restraining order?

What is the legal definition of sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse includes:

  • any sexual crime included in Chapter 709 of the Iowa Code (examples include sexual exploitation by a counselor, indecent exposure, and invasion of privacy);
  • incest; and
  • sexual exploitation of a minor.

Sexual abuse also includes behavior that is similar to the above acts that takes place in another state and is also a crime in that state.1

1 IA ST § 236A.2(5)

What types of sexual abuse restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

In Iowa, there are three types of sexual assault restraining orders: emergency, temporary, and final.

Emergency orders:

When the court is closed or a judge is unavailable at the end of the day or on weekends, you can file a petition for an emergency order with the district judge or district associate judge. The judge can grant you an emergency order if it is necessary to protect you from sexual abuse. The abuser does not have to receive notice of your case for the judge to grant an emergency order. Emergency orders last for 72 hours.1

Temporary orders:

When you file a petition for a sexual assault restraining order, you can ask for a temporary ex parte restraining order to be issued immediately. Ex parte means that the abuser does not appear at the hearing or have notice of the case beforehand. A judge can grant you a temporary order if s/he decides it is necessary to protect you before the hearing for a final order, and you have given the judge good cause to believe the incidents in your petition.2 Your temporary order will last until your hearing for a final order. The court will schedule your hearing for a final order to take place between 5 – 15 days from when the abuser receives notice of the temporary order.3 The judge could also issue a subpoena (an order) requiring witnesses to appear and testify in the case if you or the abuser ask the judge to do so. The judge must also let the abuser know that s/he has the right to hire an attorney for the trial.4

Final orders:

Before the judge can grant a final order, the abuser must have the opportunity to appear in court to present evidence and testimony. At that hearing, the abuser can agree to consent to the order or can ask the judge to have a trial. If there is a trial in your case and the judge finds that the abuser has sexually abused you, the judge can grant you a final order. The judge can issue the final order to last for up to one year.5The order can also be extended multiple times. See Can I extend my order? for more information.

1 IA ST § 236A.8(1),(2)
2 IA ST § 236A.6(2)
3 IA ST § 236A.6(1)
4 IA ST § 236A.6(4),(5)
5 IA ST § 236A.7(2)

What protections can I get in a sexual abuse restraining order?

A sexual abuse restraining order can order the abuser to:

  • stop sexually abusing you; and
  • stay away from your home, school, and work.1

The judge may also be able to order additional protections in your order depending on your situation and may even order the abuser to pay your attorney’s fees and court costs.2 Be sure to include any specific requests in your petition.2

In addition, your order should include information about whether the abuser should be arrested for violating the terms of the order.3

1 IA ST § 236A.7(1)
2 IA ST § 236A.7(1),(4)
3 IA ST § 236A.7(3)

Getting the order

Who can get a sexual abuse restraining order? Can a minor get an order?

You can file for a sexual abuse restraining order if you are the victim of sexual abuse. You can also file on behalf of an unemancipated minor if you are the minor’s parent or guardian.1 A minor is “unemancipated” if s/he is under the age of 18 and has not gone through the court process to be “emancipated,” which is when the judge decides that s/he is a legal adult even though s/he is under age 18.

1 IA ST § 236A.3(1)

Can I get a sexual abuse restraining order against a minor?

Yes. However, the case will be heard in juvenile court instead of the district court.1 You may want to contact the district court before filing to check if you would file your petition in district court or in juvenile court.

1 IA ST § 236A.3(4)

What are the steps involved with getting a sexual abuse restraining order?

Do I need a lawyer for my case?

You are not required to have a lawyer to get a sexual abuse restraining order. However, it can often be beneficial to have a lawyer at future court dates - especially if the abuser is not going to consent to the order being issued against him/her, and the judge must have a hearing (trial). A lawyer can help with presenting evidence, questioning your witnesses, and cross-examining the abuser.

If you do not have the money to pay for a lawyer, you may contact a local legal services organization to see if they can represent you. Another option may be to ask the county attorney’s office for help. Their office may be able to help you with:

  • getting the forms;
  • filling out the forms and any other court paperwork;
  • filing your court forms;
  • presenting evidence to the judge;
  • enforcing the order; and
  • possibly any additional assistance necessary.1

1 IA ST § 236A.5

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

Can I extend my order?

Yes. The judge may extend the order if s/he finds that the abuser still poses a threat to your safety, the safety of someone who lives with you, or the safety of members in your immediate family. The abuser must have a chance to participate in a hearing on your request to extend the order. The judge can grant as many extensions as s/he finds necessary.1

1 IA ST § 236A.7(2)

Elder Abuse Protective Orders

Someone who is at least 60 years old can petition the court for a protective order due to elder abuse. If the victim of elder abuse cannot file for it, a "substitute petitioner" can file on his/her behalf. A substitute petitioner can be a family or household member, guardian, conservator, attorney in fact, guardian ad litem, or other interested person.1

“Elder abuse” is defined as any of the following:

  • physical injury, unreasonable confinement, unreasonable punishment, or assault;
  • a sexual offense;
  • neglect, which means when a caretaker deprives the elder of the necessary minimum food, shelter, clothing, supervision, or physical or mental health care, or other care necessary to maintain a the elder's life or health; or
  • financial exploitation.2

The petition can be filed in the district court where the elder or the abuser lives. There is no cost to file the petition or to have the sheriff serve the petition.3

The judge can issue a temporary order, which will last for up to 15 days until the court hearing or an emergency order can be issued during non-business hours, which can last up to 72 hours. A final protective order can last for up to one year but can be extended as many times as needed. The judge can extend an order if, after a hearing, the judge believes that the abuser continues to pose a threat to the safety of the elder, to people who live with the elder, or to members of the elder's immediate family, or that the abuser continues to present a risk to the elder of financial exploitation. To read about the protections that a judge can include in a protective order, you can read § 235F.6 on our Selected Iowa Statutes page.

1 See IA ST § 235F.1(17); IA ST § 235F.1(15)
2 IA ST § 235F.1(5)(a)
3 IA ST §§ 235F.2(1); 235F.2(3)(a),(b)
4 IA ST §§ 235F.5(1); 235F.7(1),(2); 235F.6(5)

Moving to Another State with Your Iowa Protective Order

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out fo the state for any reason, your Iowa protective order can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my protective order from Iowa enforced in another state?

Yes. If you have a valid Iowa protective order that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state. The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid protective orders granted in the United States receive "full faith and credit" in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories. See the question below to find out if your protective order qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state protective orders in the same way it enforces its own orders. Meaning, if your abuser violates your out-of-state protective order, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated. This is what is meant by "full faith and credit."

How do I know if my protective order is good under federal law?

An protective order is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story. 
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)

I have a temporary (ex parte) order.  Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes. An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my PFA is good under federal law?1

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires. If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court). However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

Getting your protective order enforced in another state

How do I get my protective order enforced in another state? 

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your protection order enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid protection order is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1 Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state. You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your protection order with you at all times. It is also a good idea to know the rules of states you will be living in or visiting to ensure that your out-of-state order can be enforced in a timely manner.

Do I need a special copy of my protective order to it enforced?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your protective order. A certified copy says that it is a "true and correct" copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it. In Iowa, a certified order has a stamp and a raised seal on it.

The copy you originally received was most likely not a certified copy. If your copy is not a certified copy, call or go to the court that gave you the order and ask the clerk's office for a certified copy. It costs on average $10 to get a certified copy of an IA protective order.

Note: It is a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You will also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move. Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on. Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work. Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

Can I get someone to help me?  Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your protection order enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to. A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your protection order, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, select your state from the drop-down menu on the top left-hand corner of this page, and click on the "Links and Resources" page.

Do I need to tell the court in Iowa if I move?

You might want to if you won't be getting mail at your old address. The court that gave you your protective order needs to have an up-to-date address for you at all times because they will communicate with you only by mail if anything happens to your protective order - for example, ifther abuser asks the court to dismiss the order to change it in any way. If you will not be receiving mail at your old address, you must provide the court with a new address where you can receive mail. The Iowa law says that a change of address should be reported to the court within five days after the old address is no longer valid.1

If you provide your new address to the court, you can ask that it be kept confidential. It will be kept in a confidential part of your file, and the public will not have access to it. However, your new address could possibly be released to court officials in your new state or law enforcement officials in either Iowa or your new state. If you feel unsafe giving your new address, you can use the address of a friend you trust, a safe house, or a P.O. Box instead.2

1 IA ST § 236.10(2)
2 IA ST § 236.10(1)

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe. It may depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your protective order.  You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

To read more about custody laws, go to our IA Custody page.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children. You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in IA on our IA Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order.  Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in an protective order can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 USC 2266

Enforcing an Out-of-State Order in Iowa

If you are planning to move to Iowa or are going to be in Iowa for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General rules for out-of-state orders in Iowa

Can I get my protection order enforced in Iowa? What are the requirements?

Yes. Your protective order can be enforced in Iowa as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)

Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in IA?

No. Only the state that issued your protective order can change, extend, or cancel the order. You cannot have this done by a court in Iowa.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued. You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living. Find out if this is possible in your state by calling the clerk of the court that issued your order. To find out more information about how to modify a protective order, see the IA Protective Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in Iowa, you may be able to get a new one issued in Iowa but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Iowa. To find out more information on how to get a protective order in Iowa, visit our IA Protective Orders page. 

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order.  Will I still have temporary custody of my children in IA?

Yes. As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 Iowa can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets this legal standard, contact a lawyer in your area. To find a lawyer in your area, please visit our IA Finding a Lawyer.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.

Registering your out-of-state order in Iowa

What is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry? Who has access to it?

The National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC) is a nationwide, electronic database used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

Before moving to Iowa, the state that issued your protective order may already have entered your order into the NCIC. If not, your order may be entered into the NCIC once your order is registered in IA.

All law enforcement officials have access to the NCIC database, but the information is encrypted so outsiders cannot access it.

How do I register my protection order in Iowa?

In general, to register your protective order in Iowa, you need to file a certified copy with the clerk of your local district court.1  If you don’t have a certified copy, the clerk may still be able to file your regular copy if you submit an affidavit (a written statement sworn under oath) that the order exists and is valid.2  When your order is registered, the clerk will give you a copy of your registered order.3

In addition, certain courts may require the following:

  • that you fill out an application to register a foreign order;
  • that your application go in front of a judge, who will decide whether to register it or not;
  • that you arrange to have papers served on (delivered to) the abuser, notifying him/her that the order has been registered, and that you pay for this service.

If you need help registering your protective order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Iowa for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our IA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 IA ST § 236.19(2)(a)
2 IA ST § 236.19(2)
3 IA ST § 236.19(2)(b)

Do I have to register my protection order in Iowa in order to get it enforced?

No. Iowa state law gives full protection to an out-of-state protective order as long as you can show the officer a copy of the order and the officer believes that it is a valid (real) order.1 It does not have to be entered into the state or federal registry in order to be enforced by an Iowa police officer, but the officer does need to believe that it is real.

1 IA ST § 236.19(4)(a)

Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Safety Tips page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our IA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

What if I don't register my protection order?  Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

Maybe. While neither federal law nor state law requires that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced, if your order is not entered into the state registry, it may be more difficult for an Iowa law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real. Meaning, it could take longer to get your order enforced.

If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Iowa. To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in IA, go to our IA Advocates and Shelters page.

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

No. There is no fee for registering your protective order in Iowa.1

1 IA ST § 236.19(5)