Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 209A, provides for restraining orders for protection from abuse. Abuse is defined as follows under the law:

”Abuse”, the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members:

  • attempting to cause or causing physical harm
  • placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm
  • causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress.

Restraining orders can only be granted against Family or Household members defines as follows:

  • Are or were married to one another
  • Are or were residing together in the same household
  • Are or were related by blood or marriage
  • Having a child in common regardless of whether they have ever married or lived together
  • Are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship, which shall be adjudged by district, probate or Boston municipal courts consideration of the following factors:
    • The length of time of the relationship
    • The type of relationship;
    • The frequency of interaction between the parties; and
    • If the relationship has been terminated by either person, the length of time elapsed since the termination of the relationship

IF YOU ARE A VICTIM OF ABUSE YOU SHOULD CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY. THEY MAY ARREST THE PERPETRATOR, BUT THEY ALSO HAVE ACCESS TO AN EMERGENCY ON-CALL JUDGE WHO CAN ISSUE THE RESTRAINING ORDER OVER THE PHONE.

If you obtain an emergency restraining order, you will be required to go to court the next day that the court is open. After you receive an emergency restraining order, call your lawyer immediately so they can either prepare you for court, or attend the hearing to represent you. If you are not represented by an attorney, you should be aware that you must show, at a minimum, that:

  • You are a victim of actual physical harm or attempted physical harm; or
  • You have a fear of imminent serious physical harm; or
  • You were forced to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress.

The restraining order hearing is usually held at the District Court for the jurisdiction where the episode(s) of abuse took place.

If you are a victim of physical harm, or fear imminent serious physical harm, or you were forced to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress and you did not call the police, you can still file a request for a restraining order at the District Court or the Probate Court that has jurisdiction over the place where the incident(s) occurred.

If you area defendant on a 209A restraining order you should seek an attorney immediately.