Restraining Orders

In Massachusetts restraining order is also referred to as a Chapter 209A protective order, or abuse prevention order. This is a court order that is intended to provide victims of domestic, physical, or sexual abuse with legal protection by providing criminal and/or monetary penalties for a violation of the order. Under Chapter 209A abuse is defined as 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.

These orders are available to traditional, nontraditional and extended family members. It provides protection to family and household members who:

  • are or were married to one another;
  • are or were residing together in the same household;
  • are or were related by marriage or blood;
  • have a child in common; or
  • are or were involved in a substantive dating or engagement relationship.

When determining whether a substantive dating or engagement relationship exists or existed the Court will consider the following:

  • the length of the relationship;
  • the type of relationship;
  • the frequency of interaction between the parties; and
  • (if applicable) the length of time since the relationship ended.

Restraining orders can be obtained from the Court and when filing for a restraining order the Plaintiff must complete a form complaint and affidavit which is available at the Clerk’s office in the courthouse. If the restraining order involves a child the Plaintiff must also sign a care and custody affidavit disclosing any prior or pending custody proceedings involving the child. Once filed with the Court a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing the Defendant will be given the opportunity to appear before the Court and be heard on the merits of the restraining order.

If the Court rules in favor of the Plaintiff the Court can order that the Defendant:

  • Refrain from abusing the Plaintiff;
  • Stay away from the Plaintiff’s residence or temporary living quarters (regardless of the identity of the owner or lessee);
  • Stay away from the Plaintiff’s place of work and other designated locations, including but not limited to daycare center, school, and Plaintiff’s parents’ home;
  • Have no contact with the Plaintiff in person, by telephone, in writing, or otherwise, directly or through someone else;
  • Stay at least a certain distance from the Plaintiff at all times;
  • Refrain from abusing or contacting the Plaintiff’s children; and
  • Pay the Plaintiff for losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse, such as moving expenses, changing locks on doors, medical expenses, lost wages, property damages, cost to obtain an unlisted phone number, and reasonable attorney fees

The Court’s order will be granted for a fixed period of time that will not exceed one year. The Court will set a date and time that the order will expire and if the Plaintiff wishes to extend the order they can appear at the Court at that date and time. When the Plaintiff appears the Court can decide to extend the order if they find it reasonably necessary to protect the Plaintiff or any child(ren) in the Plaintiff’s care. The Court may also extend the order upon motion of the Plaintiff. If the Defendant has obeyed the initial order that obedience alone is not grounds for refusing an extension of the order. Reasons a Plaintiff may seek an extension of the order often include, but are not limited to the following:

  • the Plaintiff remains fearful because of the past abuse;
  • the order has been effective in stopping the dynamics of abuse;
  • the Defendant will pursue or have contact with the victim in the absence of an order;
  • the Defendant has abused or intimidated the victim since entry of the order;
  • the Defendant has violated the terms of the protective order;
  • the Defendant has a history of violence and unlawful conduct;
  • the Defendant has expressed hostility about the plaintiff to their children or others;
  • the Defendant has hovered at distances close enough to intimidate the victim, even if not in technical violation of the order;
  • the Defendant has abused the victim’s family or others supportive of the victim; or
  • the Defendant is unstable, unpredictable or in need of restrictive limits.