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Domestic Abuse
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Domestic abuse is an assault that occurs within certain relationships defined by law. An assault is considered domestic abuse when:
  1. The assault is between family members or persons residing in the same household at the time of the assault;
  2. The assault is between a divorced couple or separated spouses who do not live together at the time of the assault;
  3. The assault is between persons who have a child together, whether or not the persons were ever married or ever lived together; or
  4. The assault is between persons who resided together in the previous year and are not living together at the time of the assault.

Petition For Relief
You can file a petition for relief from domestic abuse with your local court. This petition is available from the clerk of court and is designed to be filed without the aid of an attorney.

After The Petition Is Filed
Once a petition is filed, the judge can, if necessary, enter a temporary order to protect the petitioner from abuse until a hearing can be held. A judge will always be on call to enter emergency orders, even on weekends. A full hearing on the petition will generally be held within 10 days of filing. After the hearing, the judge has the authority to order the abuse to stop, to order family counseling, or to order the abuser out of the family home and to keep away from the victims of the abuse. If you have children, the court can also order temporary custody to be with you or a spouse. The judge can also order that the other party pay you monetary support.

Violations
If any of the court’s orders are violated, the judge can hold the violator in contempt of court. The person held in contempt will be jailed. If the violation is a violation of a no-contact order, the violator must be jailed for seven consecutive days.

Police Responsibilities

If an officer has reason to believe domestic abuse has occurred, the officer must use all reasonable means to prevent further abuse, including remaining on the scene if necessary. Officers are to assist victims of domestic abuse in obtaining medical assistance. Officers must also provide victims with phone numbers for services such as shelters, safe houses, and crisis lines. A list of rights is to be provided to the victim.

If the officer cannot determine who the aggressor is, the officer may place both you and the family member under arrest. An abuser can be arrested without an arrest warrant if there is probable cause to believe a domestic assault occurred. The officer must arrest if a bodily injury has occurred or if an attempt to inflict a serious injury has occurred or if a dangerous weapon has been used. An officer is not required to arrest a person who commits an assault in self-defense.

The Iowa State Bar Association • 625 East Court Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50309
Ph. (515) 243-3179 • Fax (515) 243-2511
Email: isba@iowabar.org