Domestic Abuse & Divorce in Iowa

By Wayne Thomas

Divorces can become highly contentious between spouses. However, Iowa is a pure no-fault state, which means that a divorce cannot be granted on grounds of domestic abuse. Instead, Iowa law provides that judges may issue emergency and permanent protection orders to ensure the abuse stops during and after the divorce.

Abuse in Divorce

Since Iowa is a pure no-fault state, you cannot use domestic violence as grounds for your divorce. Instead, the court only looks at whether the marriage is broken and without the possibility of reconciliation between spouses. However, the presence of domestic violence could be used by the court to support its conclusion that the marriage is broken. In addition, because safety of children is the most important consideration in all custody determinations, a history of domestic violence may serve as the court's basis for awarding sole custody to you.

Protective Orders

As the divorce process moves forward, victims of domestic violence may obtain a protective order. These orders are signed by a judge and provide specific legal protections to the recipient, aimed at preventing further abuse. The order may require the abuser to leave the marital home, stay away from the victim spouse's place of employment or school, and award temporary child custody to the victim spouse. A copy of the order will be forwarded to the 911 dispatcher in the county where it was issued and be freely accessible by local law enforcement.

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Temporary Protective Orders

While a hearing is generally required before a protective order will be issued, you may request a temporary order if you are in immediate danger of further abuse. This request may accompany your initial divorce paperwork; notice of these filings, also referred to as service, must be provided to your spouse. Courts in Iowa will likely forward your paperwork to the sheriff's office for service in cases of domestic violence; however, in some counties, you may be responsible for contacting the sheriff's office yourself. A judge will review the request and has the discretion to issue a temporary order without a hearing.

Permanent Protective Orders

After a temporary protective order is issued, a hearing must be held no less than five days and no more than fifteen days from the date of service. At that time, you will be required to present evidence that the abuse occurred. You must prove that you were either physically abused, a gun or other dangerous weapon was brandished at you, or you were threatened with physical violence to the point that you were actually in fear of being harmed. Evidence may be in the form of police reports, witness testimony and medical records. After hearing all evidence, a judge will decide whether you have established sufficient grounds for continued protection and issue a permanent order.

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