209A Restraining Order

A 209A Restraining Order can also be referred to as an “abuse prevention order” or a “protection order,” and is designed to provide physical and legal protection to victims of domestic, physical or sexual abuse. The victim and abuser don’t have to be married to use this legal process, but certainly can be. The victim and abuser must be in a relationship with each other, such as family members living in the same household, boyfriend/girlfriend, child or spouse.

What is a restraining order?

A restraining order is a court order intended to protect you from further abuse from someone who has harmed or attempted to harm you.

How can I obtain a restraining order?

You may seek a restraining order in any court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The most common courts for issuing restraining orders are District Court or Family and Probate Court.

How can I qualify for a retraining order?

In order to qualify for a restraining order, you must be in a relationship with the aggressor who may be a spouse, child, member of your household, boyfriend or girlfriend. If this person has physically harmed you, threatened to harm you or forced you to engage in sexual relations, then a legal recourse is for you to contact the police or go to a court and request an order that keeps that person away from you.

What does a restraining order grant me?

A restraining order places significant restrictions on their access to you, your residence, use of firearms and sometimes custody of children.
A restraining order can severely affect one’s life. The defendant (alleged abuser) of a restraining order may be forced out of his or her home, and may lose child custody or visitation rights for the period of time the restraining order is in effect.

What happens to the individual who is issued the restraining order?

When a judge issues a restraining order against an individual, then that person’s name will be listed on the Domestic Violence Registry, which affect employment opportunities. A restraining order is a civil order and it does not give the abuser a criminal record. However, a violation of this order will have the consequence of criminal action for the violation and this will create a criminal record.

What is the concept of a restraining order?

The concept of a restraining order is simple. It is a court order directing someone to do or not do specific actions. It is a written order of specific terms that a judge signs so that the defendant (alleged abuser) is on legal notice of actions she/he can and cannot do or risk criminal sanctions for violation of this order.

How can I obtain a restraining order?

Obtaining a restraining order is a two-step process. First, you must obtain a temporary or emergency order, called a 209A Restraining Order, from the police or court. You can do this on your own, contact the police or consult with an attorney who can advise you regarding where to go and what to do.

What is the process?

This first step encompasses the completion of an affidavit requesting the order. During the process of seeking the order, you will need to go before a judge, who will ask you questions about your safety. Bring any documentation that you have regarding your abuse with you, for example medical records or police reports. At this initial stage, the judge has the authority to grant a temporary restraining order for up to ten (10) days and identify a date for the next hearing. The defendant (alleged abuser) will be given notice of the restraining order, which will also include the date and time for the next hearing.

The second step is the evidentiary hearing, which gives both sides the opportunity to have their side presented to the judge in order to determine whether the restraining order should be extended for a period of time or terminated on that hearing date. At this hearing, the victim and alleged abuser appear before the judge to state their facts about what happened.

Can the judge extend the authority of the restraining order?

After this hearing, the judge has the authority to extend the 209A restraining order for a few weeks, months or up to a year. The judge also can grant other court orders to ensure your safety.