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Finding Court Records in Iowa

Iowa Courts Overview

It helps to understand how the Iowa state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The Iowa trial court system consists of District Courts.

Iowa has a unified trial court system with general jurisdiction over all cases exercised by District Courts. District Court jurisdiction is limited when original jurisdiction over a certain type of case is assigned to another type of court, tribunal or administrative agency.

If you prefer, you can start your search by going to Iowa Courts by County.

Iowa District Courts

District Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, with few exceptions.

All District Courts have divisions for Juvenile Court, Probate Court and Small Claims. Some District Courts also have divisions based on case type, including Criminal, Civil, Domestic Relations and Special. “Special” cases are certain types of civil cases that do not involve the enforcement of private rights, the prevention or redress of private wrongs, or the recovery of a penalty or forfeiture.

Cases may be heard by a District Judge, District Associate Judge, Associate Juvenile Judge, Associate Probate Judge or a Judicial Magistrate. Each type of judge has jurisdiction over certain types of cases. District Judges have general jurisdiction over all types of cases heard by District Court, while other types of judges have jurisdiction that is limited to certain types of cases.

The Juvenile Court divisions of District Courts exercise original jurisdiction over most juvenile delinquency, adoption, termination of parental rights, children in need of assistance, families in need of assistance, voluntary foster care placement proceedings and cases involving abortion notification waiver hearings.

The Probate Court divisions of District Courts have jurisdiction over the estates of decedents and absentees, the construction of wills, conservatorships and guardianships, trusts and trustees, actions for accounting, and other probate cases.

The Small Claims divisions of District Courts offer a simplified procedure for some civil claims involving limited amounts of money in dispute, including some landlord-tenant cases.

Where to Find Court Cases in Iowa

The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of Iowa court.

Most Cases = Most or all cases.     Some Cases = Some cases.

Case Type Court Type
Civil District Courts
General Civil - Unlimited Most or All Cases
General Civil - Limited Most or All Cases
Small Claims Most or All Cases
Civil Equity Most or All Cases
Complex Commercial Most or All Cases
Foreclosures and Liens Most or All Cases
Real Estate Title and Boundary Most or All Cases
Landlord / Tenant Most or All Cases
Ordinance Violations Most or All Cases
Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders Most or All Cases
Administrative Agency Appeals Most or All Cases
Criminal District Courts
Felony Most or All Cases
Felony Preliminary Hearings Most or All Cases
Misdemeanors Most or All Cases
Ordinance Violations Most or All Cases
Juvenile Most or All Cases
Traffic and Infractions Most or All Cases
Domestic Relations District Courts
Divorce Most or All Cases
Child Custody and Visitation Most or All Cases
Child Support Most or All Cases
Paternity Most or All Cases
Domestic Violence Protection Order Most or All Cases
Juvenile District Courts
Adoptions Most or All Cases
Juvenile Delinquency Most or All Cases
Child Abuse and Neglect Most or All Cases
Termination of Parental Rights Most or All Cases
Children in Need of Supervision Most or All Cases
Mental Health District Courts
Involuntary Commitments Most or All Cases
Other Mental Health Cases Most or All Cases
Probate District Courts
Wills & Estates Most or All Cases
Name Changes Most or All Cases
Trusts Most or All Cases
Guardianships and Conservatorships Most or All Cases

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