Criminal No Contact Orders and Civil Protection Orders

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid


A lot of what we know about the law we learn from television.  We know that the police arrest people and charge them with crimes.  Domestic abuse is a crime where the defendant is accused of “assaulting” someone where there is a “domestic relationship” between the people.  A domestic relationship includes people who are married or people who have a minor child together.

If your spouse is arrested for domestic abuse, a criminal no contact order is often issued as well. 

  • Although someone from pretrial release may contact you, this order may be entered without you requesting it and without you knowing about it before it is entered. 
  • A criminal no contact order states that the defendant cannot have any contact with you while the criminal case is ongoing. 
  • You may be able to ask that the order be dismissed if you do not want it, but it is up to the judge to decide.
  • The prosecutor may object to your request. 
  • How long it lasts also depends on what happens to the criminal case. 
  • If the criminal case is dismissed, the no contact order is no longer in effect. 
  • If the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty, the no contact order can be extended.

 Although we do not see much about it on television, there is a big area of the law that deals with “civil” matters. 

  • This involves someone filing a court action. 
  • In the area of domestic abuse, you could file a civil protective order case based on the same facts that gave the police the ability to arrest the defendant for the crime.  

Why would I want to file a civil protective order if I have one from a criminal case?

If you file the court action, you are in charge.  Although the order is usually entered for a year, you can ask that it be dismissed before then.  If you tell the judge that you do not think that you still need the order for your safety and no one has been pressuring you to drop it, the judge will usually dismiss the order, but it is still up to the judge. 

Among the reasons you would want a civil protective order are:

  • It can deal with things that are not in the criminal no contact order. 
  • It can say that the defendant cannot live where you live. 
  • This can be important if you are renting and he is on the lease.  
  • If the two of you have children together, the civil order can say that you have custody. 
  • The order can also set up a way that the defendant has visitation that is safe for you and the children.
  • Law enforcement could enforce these custody and visitation orders. 
  • The protective order may also deal with child support and property issues.
  • It can give you care and possession of your pets

How do I get a civil protective order?

You start getting a civil protective order by going to the civil clerk’s office in your county courthouse. 

  • The clerk has the forms you need to fill out and there is no charge to file the court action. 
  • Legal advocates may be available to help you fill out the paperwork.
  • The judge looks at the paperwork and can issue a temporary protective order right away, giving you exclusive possession of your residence and temporary custody of the children. 
  • Because this order is based on the judge knowing only one side of the case, the case is set for hearing very quickly, usually the following week. 

Can I get legal help for the civil protective order hearing?

 An Iowa Legal Aid attorney may be available to represent you at the hearing at which the judge decides whether the order should be extended for a year.

  • If you have a temporary protective order and a hearing date, call Iowa Legal Aid right away for possible representation.  There is no guarantee of representation. 
  • Even if an Iowa Legal Aid attorney cannot represent you at the hearing, you can be given advice about how to represent yourself.  
  • The system is designed so you can represent yourself, but many parties do have attorneys.

I’ve been told that I really don’t need a civil protective order because I have one in the criminal case. Is that true?

 Sometimes people may try to discourage you from applying for a civil protective order when there is already a criminal no contact order in place.  As the information in this article says, there are good reasons why you might want a civil protective order. This article could help you explain to someone in the clerk’s office or the prosecutor’s office why you want a civil order.

Can issues arise when I have both a civil and a criminal protective order?

You can have more than one protective order at a time, but you need to make sure that the orders work together. 

  • For example, if a criminal no contact order lists children as additional protected parties, the civil protective order should not give the defendant visitation with the children.
  • In addition, if you want to dismiss the protective orders, you need to make sure that all of the orders are dismissed before you have contact with the defendant. 
  • Otherwise you might be considered to have aided and abetted in the violation of a protective order.

Contact Iowa Legal Aid to see if there is help with your protective order.

  • Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 
  • To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275. 
  • Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or 
  • apply online at
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Last Review and Update: Sep 24, 2020
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