Questions & Answers About Protective Orders
There are two kinds of protective orders. The first is a criminal no contact order, which is part of the criminal case for domestic abuse. When a person calls the police after he or she has been hurt, the alleged abuser may be charged with domestic abuse, and a no contact order, also known as a protective order, may be issued. The no contact order usually lasts until the trial on the domestic abuse charge (or until a plea bargain is reached). The State of Iowa, as represented by the county attorney, negotiates with the alleged abuser or the attorney representing the abuser. Sometimes the no contact order is dropped after a plea bargain is struck.
The other kind of protective order is a civil protective order. Any victim of domestic abuse can obtain a civil protective order by going to the clerk of court and asking for the form for protective orders. You fill out the form, and give it back to the clerk. Then you go see a judge. The judge will see you ahead of regular court business, because of the emergency nature of protective orders. The temporary order granted by the judge will be in effect until a hearing on the case can take place-usually about 10 to 15 days after you first get the temporary order.
Q. Who can get a protective order?
A. The law limits the categories of people who can get a protective order to those in a particular relationship with the abuser. These include a spouse, ex-spouse, people living together at the time of the assault or who have lived together within one year before the assault occurred, persons having a child together, or persons in an intimate relationship (significant romantic involvement that does not have to include sexual involvement).
Q. What is domestic abuse?
A. The law says that domestic abuse is an assault between certain categories of people. An assault can be physical contact that could hurt you or is meant to hurt you, or threatening action with a weapon. Pushing, hitting, kicking, holding, shaking may all be domestic abuse. Unwanted sexual activity is abuse. Verbal abuse by itself is usually not considered domestic abuse under the law. Threats along with the ability to carry out the threat may qualify under the law for obtaining protective orders.
Q. How can I prove abuse when I file a civil protective order? I called the police, but they said there were no bruises and refused to file charges.
A. The civil and criminal cases are different. Even if the police won't file criminal charges, you can still go ahead with the civil case. In the civil case, you tell what happened in the request for a temporary protective order. At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to testify under oath as to what happened. Anyone else who saw what happened may also testify. Then the defendant may testify. The Judge may find one of you more credible as a witness than the other. The defendant may have a history of abusive behavior.
Q. How soon is the order effective?
A. As soon as the sheriff delivers it to the abuser.
Q. What if there was a threat to "really hurt me" if I get a protective order?
A. It is always important to plan for your safety. Before you file a protective order, it is important that you think about a safety plan. You can talk to someone at your local domestic abuse shelter, call the Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-942-0333), or talk to your attorney. You may want to stay at a shelter for a time. The protective order cannot keep an abuser from continuing to break the law and hurting you. If you get a protective order and see the defendant near your home, call 911 immediately.
Q. What about the kids?
A. You can ask the court to give you custody of the kids. You can also ask the court to let you stay in the family home and keep the abuser away from the home. At the permanent protective order hearing, a system for allowing visitation may be set up. Sometimes this will be supervised visits, with the exchange of the children at the home of a trusted family member. Supervision by a social services agency may be available at a small fee.
Q. I want a protective order, but I still need to talk to him/her about the children.
A. Make sure your lawyer, or the court if you don't have a lawyer, knows what you need. The protective order may allow for telephone contact about visitation or the children. It may also allow you to be at the same school functions.
Q. What about clothes and things? If there is a no contact order, how can arrangements be made for someone to get work clothes I need to have?
A. The court order may allow the person to come to your home, with a peace officer, to retrieve personal items. Or you can arrange to have them delivered to a family member, if you prefer.
Q. My friend told me I would go to jail if I called the defendant. Is this true?
A. It is important for you to follow the court order. If it says no communication, then there should be no direct phone calls. Communication should be through your attorney. You could be charged criminally with "aiding and abetting" if you contact the other party.
If you have other questions, call Iowa Legal Aid. To find out which office serves your county, call 1-800-532-1275. You can also get the address and telephone number for your regional Iowa Legal Aid office on the Iowa Legal Aid Website (ILAW) at www.iowalegalaid.org