Seeking a Restraining Order in the Iowa Courts

Compassionate and Trusted Family Law Attorney Serving the Cedar Rapids Area

Sometimes in family relationships, one party becomes concerned that their spouse, partner, or child may cause them harm – or cause harm to someone they love. A current loved one may have a history of mentally unstable behavior and outbursts, or a wife may feel that she is being threatened and stalked by her ex-husband.

In these situations, the Iowa courts allow for individuals in domestic relationships to obtain protective orders, also called no contact or restraining orders, against the individual that they are afraid of. These orders require that the party accused of violence or bad behavior stay away from the holder of the restraining order, or face additional legal consequences.

Types of Restraining Orders in Cedar Rapids

In Iowa, two types of restraining orders exist: criminal protective orders and civil protective orders. Criminal protective orders are not something that an individual can seek out on his or her own. Rather, they are imposed in criminal cases involving suspicions of domestic violence until an actual trial can be held on the criminal charges.

Civil protection orders are the type of order that an ordinary individual can seek from the court. An individual who is afraid of another person can go and seek a protective order from the Iowa courts. Unlike some states, under Iowa law, civil protective orders are only available for victims of domestic abuse, or parents petitioning on behalf of a child who has been abused.

Domestic abuse is defined broadly in Iowa to mean an assault between individuals in a domestic relationship. Assault can include physical violence such as hitting, punching, kicking, forced sexual activity, or otherwise hurting the victim. It also includes threatening behavior with a weapon, and even verbal threats where there is a realistic belief that the individual could carry out the threat.

Iowa’s civil protective orders can impose a wide range of conditions on an accused abuser. In addition to requiring the abuser to keep a certain distance from the victim, or avoid places where the victim lives and works – protective orders can also require counseling, and halt custody or visitation plans.

If a civil protective order is violated, a variety of punishments may be imposed. Violation of a protective order can result in arrest and a charge as a simple misdemeanor crime. It can also result in:

  • A finding that the abuser is in contempt of court
  • Jail time
  • Imposition of a fine
  • Requirement that the violator pay the victim’s attorney’s fees and court costs.

Obtaining a Civil Protective Order

The Iowa court system works to try to make obtaining a protective order as easy as possible for victims of domestic violence. However, there are still requirements that must be met and a level of proof that must be established. You cannot get a permanent protective order simply by alleging violence or threats of violence against another.

The first step in obtaining a civil protective order is to go to your local Clerk of Court and fill out a petition for a protective order. The petition is a relatively simple piece of paper that asks you to explain why you need protection from another individual. You do not have to have an attorney to fill the petition out, although it can be helpful to have an attorney’s assistance.

The petition includes questions such as what type of abuse or threats you’ve recently experienced, and what violence or abuse you may have also experienced in the past. It requires you to establish the necessary “domestic relationship” by explaining what your relationship is with your abuser.

The petition does not require any fee and will be given to a judge for review. At this point, the judge will only consider what you have written in your petition when evaluating whether to grant you a temporary protection order. He or she will not call witnesses or ask for documents.

If the judge believes that immediate protection is warranted, he or she will grant a temporary protection order that is good until a full hearing on the protective order can be held. This temporary protective order requires your abuser to stay away from you and not have any contact. If child abuse is alleged, it can also include a temporary limit on contact between the abuser and his or her children.

After the temporary restraining order is issued, the petition will be set for a full hearing, which usually occurs within 7-15 days after the petition was initially filed. If a temporary restraining order is not initially issued, the judge will still set the case for a hearing to determine whether a protective order should be issued after a full hearing.

The protection order hearing is conducted much like a mini-trial, with the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses related to the abuse alleged. You will also need to testify and present evidence to support your petition. Your abuser may then have the opportunity to cross-examine your witnesses, present his or her own witnesses, and present alternative evidence.
After considering the testimony and evidence presented, the judge will decide whether you are entitled to a permanent order of protection. Under Iowa law, permanent orders of protection are good for up to one year. After that, you must reapply if you believe that protection continues to be necessary.

Once the protective order is served on your abuser, it goes into effect. After that point in time, if he or she violates the order in any way, you may report this violation to the police and the court, and the judge will determine whether additional punishment should be imposed.

Contact an Experienced Iowa Lawyer to Help You Protect Yourself and Your Family During Difficult Times

If you have recently experienced abuse, or threats of abuse, from a spouse, ex-spouse, or current partner, you may be feeling lost, scared, and overwhelmed. Standing up to your abuser in a domestic violence relationship takes courage and support from those around you.

Family law attorney Jonathan D. Schmidt understands the personal challenges and terrifying decisions that often accompany petitioning for a protective order. He can work with you to ensure you have a safety plan in place, file all the necessary paperwork, and represent you at any hearings.

The goal is always to put your needs first and work toward a safer living environment. If you are interested in learning more about civil protection orders, contact his office online or at (319) 423-3031.