A civil protection order is a court order that tells an abuser to stay away from a victim of domestic violence. A person can file a petition with the Clerk of Court to ask for a protection order. Turning in this petition is the way a victim asks the court to protect them by telling the abuser to not have contact with the victim. A victim can either fill out the petition alone, with help from a local domestic violence program, or with the help of an attorney.
The petition asks the victim to explain what type of abuse happened recently and in the past. The petition also asks for what type of relationship there is between the victim and the abuser and whether the parties have children. A victim does not have to pay anything to file a petition asking for a protection order.
After the victim turns in the petition to the Clerk of Court, it is reviewed by a judge. A judge looks at what the victim wrote in the petition. The judge only has what the victim writes to decide whether to issue a temporary protection order. Certain facts must be in the petition for the judge to grant the temporary protection order.
If the judge issues a temporary protection order:
this tells the abuser to not have any further contact with the victim.
- It tells the abuser not to have any contact with the victim and to stay away from certain places (like where the victim works or lives).
- It should stop any further abuse until a hearing is set on the matter.
- It will set a date and a specific time for a hearing on whether a final protection order should be put in place. It will usually be set in 7-10 (no more than 15) days from the time the petition was filed. The Clerk of Court will schedule the hearing date and time and it will usually be on the second page of teh temporary protection order. It is very important for the victim to look for the date and time in the temporary protection order and attend the hearing.
- If children are involved, the temporary order can also include a temporary custody order.
- The temporary order needs to be served:
- A copy of the temporary order is given to the victim and to the sheriff's department.
- The Sheriff's department will serve the abuser with the order.
- The order becomes effective once the abuser has been served with the order.
- The temporary order will be effective until the judge hears the case at the hearing.
- If there is a problem serving the abuser, the hearing would be rescheduled. The temporary protection order will remain in effect until the hearing is held.
2. If a temporary protection order is not granted, the judge should still set the case for a hearing. However, in at least one judicial district, a victim must check a box to ask for a hearing to be set even if a temporary protection order is not granted.
- The abuser would be served with notice of a hearing date.
- At the hearing, the judge would decide whether to enter a protection order.
A victim can go to court with or without a lawyer. If a victim wants an attorney and cannot afford to pay for one, they should contact Iowa Legal Aid. Iowa Legal Aid provides free legal advice to low-income Iowans who qualify and may also be able to represent victims in a protection order hearing. Domestic violence advocates often go with victims to their court hearings. While these advocates are not attorneys and cannot represent victims in court, they can help with forms, explain the process, and also go with victims to court hearings.
What to Expect at the Hearing:
Several things can happen at the hearing, depending on what the abuser chooses.
1. The victim doesn't show up.
- If the victim doesn't show up at the hearing, the judge will dismiss the protection order case. If a temporary protection order was issued, that order is cancelled when the case is dismissed.
2. The abuser may not show up.
- If the abuser does not come, but the victim does, then the judge can grant a protection order to the victim without taking any testimony. This means that the judge accepts what the victim said in the petition as true.
- The judge may want the victim to testify even if the abuser does not show up.
3. The abuser may come to the hearing and agree to stay away from the victim.
- This is called a consent agreement.
- A consent agreement protection order will need both the victim and the abuser to agree to the terms or the judge will have to hear testimony and decide for the parties.
- If both parties agree on everything, neither the victim nor the abuser will need to testify in court.
- A victim does not have to consent to an order.
- Victims have the right to be heard in court on what they believe should be ordered if the parties cannot agree.
- The advantage to the victim of agreeing to a consent agreement is that the victim will be sure to get the protection order.
- The judge will not have to decide whether to issue an order.
4. The abuser can disagree that abuse happened and ask for a hearing. The judge will start the hearing, making a record of what happens.
- The victim must testify and give evidence first.
- The victim has the burden to prove the abuser committed an assault or threatened the victim's safety.
- The victim will have to describe the abuse and why the abuser makes them afraid.
- The victim can also use witness testimony and/or pictures, text messages, or other documents to explain the abuse.
- The abuser also has the right to testify and give evidence.
- Then the judge decides whether to grant a protection order that will last for 1 year.
Any civil protection order signed by the judge is effective for one year. The final protection order can set out rules about the children, pets, the home or living arrangements, vehicles and important documents. These rules may be the same as in the temporary protection order or may be different. Copies of the protection order are served on the victim and the defendant and are given to law enforcement agencies.
Extending, Modifying, or Canceling a Protection Order:
Extension of a Protection order:
- If the year is almost over and a victim is still afraid of the abuser, the victim can ask the court to extend the protection order for another year.
- For the court to review the request, the case must be set for a hearing.
- The abuser must be served with a notice about the hearing.
- At the hearing, the judge will review the situation, often asking the victim to testify about what has happened during the year with the protection order in place.
- For the judge to extend the order, the judge must find that the abuser continues to pose a threat to the safety of the victim or the victim's immediate family.
- The forms a victim can use to ask for an extension are at the Clerk of Court and online at www.iowacourts.gov under Court Forms: Domestic Abuse or Violence
- A victim can go to court alone or with an attorney to extend an order.
Modification of a Protection Order:
- If there are terms in the protection order that are not working out, the victim or the abuser can file a form to ask the court to modify the protection order.
- For the court to review the request, the case must be set for a hearing.
- The abuser or victim must be served with a notice about the hearing.
- At the hearing, the judge will talk to the parties about what they want modified.
- The judge has the final decision about what will and will not be modified.
- The forms a victim can use to ask for a modification are at the Clerk of Court and online at www.iowacourts.gov under Court Forms: Domestic Abuse or Violence
- A victim can go to court alone or with an attorney to modify an order.
Cancellation of a Protection Order:
- If the victim does not want to have the protection order anymore, the victim will have to file a form with the court asking to end the order.
- The order is not cancelled until there is a new court order that says the protection order is no longer in effect.
- The forms a victim can use to ask for a modification are at the Clerk of Court and online at www.iowacourts.gov under Get Forms: . Domestic Abuse or Violence
- A victim can go to court alone or with an attorney to cancel an order.