Massachusetts enacted the Abuse Prevention Act, Massachusetts General Las Chapter 209A to allow protection for someone abused by a person close to him or her.
Abuse for purposes of this law, means:
- attempting to cause or causing physical harm;
- placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm; or
- causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress.
Protection is available for people who:
- are or were married to one another (spouses or former spouses);
- are or were living together in the same household;
- are or were related by blood or marriage (in-laws and other relatives);
- have a child in common; or
- are or have been in a substantive dating relationship.
If the court finds that the requirements of the law have been met, it can:
- order the defendant to stop abusing the plaintiff;
- order the defendant not to contact the plaintiff;
- order the defendant to stay away from the plaintiff and any minor children;
- order the defendant to leave and stay away from the family home, the plaintiff’s workplace and the children’s schools;
- order the plaintiff temporary custody of any minor child;
- order the defendant to turn in any firearms and FID card;
- order the defendant to pay child support;
- order the defendant to pay monetary compensation for losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse;
- order the plaintiff’s address to be sealed (impounded) so that the defendant cannot get it from the court;
- order the defendant not to abuse or contact the minor children or children; and
- recommend that the defendant attend a batterer’s treatment program.
You can file for a Abuse Prevention Order under M.G.L. c. 209A (commonly known as a retraining order) in District Court, Probate and Family Court, or Superior Court. If you moved because of the abuse, you should ask that your address be impounded (kept confidential) so that the abuser will not know where you are currently living. There is no filing fee to obtain a restraining order.
Typically, after filing an order, you will see a judge for a hearing. This is called an “ex parte” hearing if the defendant is not present. A second hearing is schedule within 10 days of the first hearing and both parties are notified and may attend. At the second hearing, the court can enter an order lasting up to one year. On the expiration date of that order, you can reappear at court for a renewal hearing and may ask the judge to make the order permanent or to extend the order for any additional time necessary.
The District Court cannot make visitation or parenting time orders. If the restraining order was issued by the District Court, the parties must go to Probate and Family Court in the event they would like to modify the order to include visitation rights.
In a divorce, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 208 sections §§18 and 34D, the Probate and Family Court has the power to issue a restraining order during the pendency of the divorce or at the time of a divorce hearing or any renewal hearing. Probate and Family Court can additionally enter an order regarding child custody, visitation, spousal and child support.
Should you find yourself needing assistance at a hearing on a restraining order, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.