209A Abuse Protection Order
A 209A abuse prevention order, commonly referred to as a restraining order or a protective order, is one option for you to consider in seeking safety if you are a victim of domestic violence. The information below answers commonly asked questions such as who is eligible, how to get one, and how they work and are enforced.
A restraining is an important legal option for victims and survivors. It is most effective in combination with a larger confidential plan for safety that can be developed in consultation with a trained advocate from a local sexual assault or domestic violence program. Whether or not you may feel that physical danger is imminent, consulting with a trained advocate can provide you with important information and support. Services are free and confidential. No one from a local sexual assault or domestic violence program will force you to do anything.
You can talk to a trained domestic violence advocate about your safety considerations and options when considering a protection order. Advocates may be available to assist you with the filing of your protective order, accompany you to court and provide information to you and your children. Call 1-877-785-2020 to be connected to the program nearest you. In an emergency, call 9-1-1 for a police officer to come to your aid.
Read the full text of the Massachusetts 209A law.
You are eligible for a protective order if your relationship meets at least one of these criteria:
You are or have been in a substantive dating relationship (this is judged by the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, the frequency with which you and your abuser interacted, and if/when the relationship ended)
You are living or have lived together in the same household
You are or have been engaged or married
You have a child together
You are or have been related by blood or marriage
How Does A Judge Decide Whether to Issue the Order?
Under the law, the judge needs to determine:
- If the relationship is covered by the law, and
- If you have shown "a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse.” This means that there is a serious chance that you will be abused in the near future if you do not receive a protective order.
Note for someone who is under 18 years of age
A person who is under 18 is considered a minor. If you're a minor, a judge may request that a parent or guardian come with you to court. If that is not possible, the court may appoint someone to discuss the situation with you and report to the court. However, the judge can issue the order without a parent or guardian present if you appear to be in danger.
How to Get a Protective Order
Any person can file for a protective order without the services of an attorney or other advocate. However, a domestic violence legal advocate can make getting a protective order less confusing, and his or her services are free. Call your local domestic violence crisis program and ask for assistance, or ask at the court if there is a legal advocate available. If you do not have access to either of these two resources, don’t worry! The process is easier than you may think.
- Go to the Clerk’s Office at the courthouse in your community and complete an affidavit requesting a protective order.
- Then, you will need to go before a judge, who will ask you questions about your safety. S/he has the authority to grant a temporary, ten-day protective order at that time. You will be given a copy to carry with you at all times.
- After that, the court will tell the police that the order has been issued. The police will serve your abuser with the order. You should tell the court the whereabouts of the abuser, to the best of your knowledge, to make this step easier and faster.
- Within ten days, you will attend another hearing where your abuser may be present to tell his or her side of the story. This may be very difficult, and it is your right to have an advocate present for support. You will tell your story again, and at this time, the judge can extend the protective order for up to one year. Click here to find help.
But I Need a Protective Order Immediately!
It is possible to get an emergency protective order on holidays, weekends, or outside of court hours. Call the police and they will contact an emergency response judge immediately.
How Protective Orders Work
Initially, all protective orders expire after ten days. If you want it to last longer (up to a year), you will have to go back to court (see Step 4 above). All protective orders also require the defendant (the abuser) to surrender all of his or her firearms and license to carry. If your abuser violates any type of protective order, it is a crime and carries penalties of jail time and/or a large fine.
While in court, you can request that your personal information (i.e. your address) be impounded (kept secret) so that your abuser cannot find you.
Filing a protective order is 100% FREE.
There are eight different issues that may be addressed on protective orders. You can ask for any or all of these:
- Protective: Orders the abuser to stop abusing you.
- No Contact: Orders the abuser to stop contacting you.
- Vacate: Orders the abuser to leave and stay away from your home and/or workplace.
- Custody: Determines temporary custody of minor children.
- Temporary Support: Orders the abuser to pay temporary support to you and your minor children (if applicable).
- Monetary Compensation: Orders the abuser to pay you for any losses suffered as a result of his or her abuse (for example, loss of earnings or medical expenses).
- Child Protection: Orders the abuser to stop abusing and/or contacting your minor children.
- Batterer’s Intervention: Requires the abuser to attend mandatory Batterer’s Intervention programs. Find more information about Batterer’s Intervention.
Upon issuance of a 209a abuse prevention order, the judge can suspend all licenses to carry firearms and order the defendant to surrender all firearms. If you are concerned about the abuser’s access to firearms, be sure to notify the judge.
By federal law, abuse prevention orders are enforceable where it is issued and in all other jurisdictions. This means that it is in effect in the city/town where you live, work and all 50 states, Indian tribal lands, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.
ALWAYS KEEP YOUR COPY OF THE COURT ORDER WITH YOU!
IN AN EMERGENCY CALL 911.
For support, call the sexual or domestic violence program nearest you or the NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE at: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
The Victim Rights Law Center provides direct legal representation and information regarding civil legal needs to victims of rape and sexual assault in Massachusetts.