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 CourtsDistrict 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.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||District Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||District Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|