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)
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?
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.