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 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
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
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)