Restraining Order Law

Under what circumstances will the Court issue a Restraining Order?

Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws c. 209A, a person suffering from abuse may file a Complaint with the Court requesting the issuance of a Restraining Order. “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.

The Court will generally conduct an immediate hearing and if after such hearing, determines that the person requesting the Restraining Order has been abused, the Court may enter all or some of the following orders:

  • Ordering the Defendant to refrain from abusing the Plaintiff;
  • Ordering the Defendant to refrain from contacting the Plaintiff;
  • Ordering the Defendant to vacate forthwith and remain away from Plaintiff’s household, dwelling or workplace;
  • Awarding Plaintiff temporary custody of a minor child.

Generally, the initial request for a Restraining Order is made without notice to the other party (ex parte) after which there is usually a full hearing in approximately 10 days, at which time the Defendant is given an opportunity to be heard. At the full hearing, the Court can extend the Restraining Order for up to one year.

Once a Restraining Order is issued by the Court, the violation of the Restraining Order shall be deemed criminal and may subject a Defendant to arrest and prosecution. Accordingly, any person against whom a Restraining Order has issued must abide by the terms of the Restraining Order exactly, and should have no contact with the Plaintiff.

In order to obtain a Restraining Order, in addition to a Petition, the Plaintiff will also need to prepare and sign an “Affidavit” which is a statement of facts signed under the “penalties of perjury”. It is important when submitting an Affidavit that the abuse be well documented, as omitting important facts may raise substantial questions later on. If a Restraining Order has been issued against you, it is generally a good idea to obtain a copy of the “Affidavit” well in advance of the Court Hearing date, in order to be properly prepared to meet the allegations and accusations.

209A Abuse Prevention Restraining Orders are generally issued by the District Courts and by the Probate Courts. In addition, the Probate Courts can also issue a different type of Domestic Relations Protective Order based upon endangerment to a parties “health, safety or welfare”.