Restraining Orders

What is a restraining order?

In Massachusetts, the type of restraining order generally sought in domestic violence is also known as a 209A. This type of restraining order covers specific relationships and offers specific protections against future abuse.

Will it give someone a criminal record?

No. A restraining order is a civil order. It does not hold someone accountable for what they may have done in the past, rather it orders them not to abuse you in the future. Violation of a restraining order is a criminal offense.

What does it cost?

The 209A is free, and you don’t need a lawyer to get one.

Who is covered under 209A?

The restraining order is available against someone with whom you have had a “substantive” dating relationship; a current or former household member; the parent of your minor child; a blood relative; or a current or former spouse. Orders are available regardless of sexual orientation, gender, age, or domestic partnership status.

What types of abuse are covered by a restraining order?

In Massachusetts, in order to get a restraining order against someone, they must have:

  • Caused you physical harm
  • Attempted to cause you physical harm
  • Placed you in fear of imminent physical harm
  • Caused you to have sexual relations involuntarily by force, threat, or duress.

This emphasis on physical harm is unfortunate since abusers use a wide range of tactics, and many effectively control their partners without using physical violence. If you are considering getting a restraining order but you haven’t been hit, remember that “physical harm” and “fear of imminent physical harm” can be interpreted in many ways. Perhaps your abuser has withheld essential medication, or has driven in ways that made you afraid you were going to have an accident, etc. Perhaps they’ve said something like, “I’ll never let you go” or, “If I can’t have you no one will.” If you’re afraid of your abuser but are unsure if you’re eligible for a restraining order, it may be helpful to talk with The Network/La Red hotline, a Victim/Witness Advocate at the court or another domestic violence program to help you sort out exactly what has happened that makes you afraid, and whether or not that fits under the law.

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