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Legal Information: Iowa

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of November 3, 2023

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;
  • any act that is intended to result in physical contact, which will be insulting or offensive to you;;
  • any act that is intended to place you in fear of immediate physical contact, which will be painful, injurious, insulting, or offensive; 
  • intentionally pointing any firearm toward you or displaying any dangerous weapon towards you in a threatening manner; or
  • intentionally pointing a laser showing a visible light beam at you with the intent to cause you pain or injury.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:

  • making temporary custody or visitation orders; 
  • giving you possession of any pets or companion animals that are owned or kept by you, the abuser, or by a minor child of you or the abuser; and
  • prohibiting the abuser from coming near such animal, taking it, harming it, threatening it, etc.1

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.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;
  • pay your attorney’s fees and costs; 
  • attend counseling; (Note: The judge can also order you and your children to attend counseling as well);2
  • stay away from any pet or companion animal that belongs to you, the abuser, or a minor child of you or the abuser; and
  • not take, hide, bother, attack, threaten, or otherwise get rid of such pet or companion animal.3

The judge can give you:

  • temporary custody of your children and allow the abuser to have visitation;2 and
  • exclusive care, possession, or control of any pets or companion animals.3 

Note: In a temporary or permanent order, 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

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); 236.4(3)

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

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.

Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.