enables a person to commence a court proceeding for the involuntary commitment
or treatment of another person who suffers a serious mental impairment or who has
a substance-related disorder. The court procedures for each situation are
similar, but not identical.
Serious Mental Impairment
mental impairment means the condition of a person with mental illness and
because of that illness the person lacks sufficient judgment to make
responsible decisions with respect to the person's hospitalization or
treatment, and who because of that illness meets any of the following criteria:
- Is likely to injure the
person's self or others if allowed to remain at liberty without treatment.
- Is likely to inflict serious
emotional injury on members of the person's family or others who lack
reasonable opportunity to avoid contact with the person with mental
illness if the person with mental illness is allowed to remain at liberty
- Is unable to satisfy the
person's needs for nourishment, clothing, essential medical care, or
shelter so that it is likely that the person will suffer physical injury,
physical debilitation, or death.
A person with a substance-related disorder
means a person who meets all of the following criteria:
- Habitually lacks self control as
to the use of chemical substances to the extent that the person is likely
to seriously endanger the person's health, or is likely to physically
injure the person's self or others if allowed to remain at liberty without
- Lacks sufficient judgment to
make responsible decisions with respect to the person's hospitalization or
How to Proceed
an action for involuntary hospitalization, you must file a verified application
with the clerk of court in the county where the person who is the subject of
concern resides or is presently located.
Also, you must provide one or more supporting affidavits (verified
written statements) that corroborate the application as well as a written
statement of a licensed physician in support of the application.
Please use the following forms:
Service of Notice
filing of an application, the clerk of court will docket the case and notify a
judge who shall review the application and accompanying documents. The clerk will send copies of the
application and supporting documentation to the sheriff to serve upon the
shall also send copies of the documents to the county attorney. If the application alleges serious mental
impairment, the clerk will also provide copies of documents to the mental
health advocate in the county of the respondent's legal settlement.
applicant may request that the respondent be taken into immediate custody. If the judge finds probable cause to believe
that the respondent has a serious mental impairment or has a substance-related
disorder and is likely to injure the
respondent or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the judge may
order the respondent to be detained until the hearing.
Appointment of Counsel
filing of the application, the court shall determine if the respondent has an
attorney. The court may appoint an
attorney to represent the respondent if the respondent is financially unable to
pay for an attorney.
In a matter
involving an allegation of substance-related disorder, the law allows the court
to appoint an attorney for the applicant if legal representation is necessary
to assist the applicant in a meaningful presentation of evidence and the
applicant is financially unable to pay for an attorney.
application is adequate, the judge will set the matter for hearing. The hearing shall not be less than
forty-eight hours after notice to the respondent unless the respondent waives
the time requirement. Prior to the
hearing, the court may require an examination of the respondent by a physician.
hearing for a matter concerning serious mental impairment, the county attorney
shall present evidence in support of the contentions in the application. At a hearing concerning an allegation of
substance-related disorder, the evidence may be presented by the county
attorney, the applicant, or the applicant's attorney.
applicant and the respondent shall be given an opportunity to testify and to
present and cross-examine witnesses.
All persons not necessary for the conduct of the proceedings shall be excluded. The matter shall be tried as a civil
matter. There shall be a presumption in
favor of the respondent and the burden of evidence in support of the
contentions in the application shall be on the applicant.
completion of the hearing the court finds that the contention has not been
sustained by clear and convincing evidence, the court shall deny the
application and terminate the proceedings.
Note: Information on this website is not intended to serve as legal advice and
should not be construed as such. Also,
judges and court employees are prohibited from giving legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should consult
with an attorney. The following site
contains suggestions about how to find an attorney: http://www.iowacourts.gov/Representing_Yourself/Legal_Help/Find_a_Lawyer/index.asp.
addition, the information provided in this site is general in nature. Descriptions of laws and court rules are
abridged. When in doubt as to the
precise requirements or content of a law or court rule, you should check the
official source or consult with your attorney.