Domestic Violence & Restraining Orders
Domestic violence refers to violent or abusive behavior in the family setting. This complicated area of law often straddles family and criminal law. In Massachusetts courts may issue interim protective orders commonly known as restraining orders, which impose limitations on the accused party before any finding of guilt.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A defines “abuse” as (a) attempting to cause or causing physical harm. (b) placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm, or (c) causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress.
Chapter 209A complaints and orders are civil orders designed to protect family, household or people who are in a dating relationship from abuse. Massachusetts judges issue 209A abuse prevention orders after two hearings. The first hearing is “ex parte” (latin for “from one side”) This means that the person seeking the restraining order appears alone before the court and without notice to the other person. Prior to appearing before the judge, the person asking for protecting must write an affidavit, which is a sworn statement describing why they are in fear for their physical safety. This first, temporary order can be issued for up to ten days. On or before the tenth day, the court must hold another hearing that gives the other party an opportunity to appear and demonstrate that there is no need for a 209A order. It is very important for the responding party to obtain a copy of the affidavit from the court ahead of time so that they can help prepare their case.
To issue the first temporary 209A abuse prevention order, the court must find that there is “a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse.” To extend the order after a full hearing, the court must find a substantial likelihood of continued “abuse” upon a family or household member.
A 209A abuse prevention order can order the defendant to do, or not do, many things, including:
- prohibiting the defendant from abusing the defendant;
- prohibiting the defendant from contacting the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s children;
- ordering the defendant to vacate and stay away from any residence or workplace;
- awarding the plaintiff temporary custody of any minor children;
- restricting visitation with any minor children, including ordering supervised visitation or requiring the defendant to attend counseling as a condition of visitation;
- ordering the defendant to pay temporary spousal support or child support;
- ordering the defendant to pay restitution (reimbursement) for any costs incurred as a result of abuse, such as lost earnings, replacement costs for locks, medical expenses, or moving expenses;
- Ordering the defendant to pay attorney’s fees.
It is a crime in Massachusetts to violate a 209A abuse prevention order. M.G.L. Ch. 209, §7. If found guilty of violating an abuse prevention order, a person can be punished for up to two-and-one-half years in the house of correction and be ordered to take a batterer’s program.
Getting Protection For You And Your Family
If you have suffered abuse or threats of abuse from a spouse or someone living in your home, you should seek protection as soon as possible.
The first step is to obtain a temporary, ex parte protective order; that is, an order issued at the request of one party without the presence of the other party. Such an order can include specific terms such as a prescribed distance that the abuser must maintain from you. It also could remove the abuser from the home and prevent the abuser from contacting you. If you need a protective order, I can guide you through the process.
Also Defending Against False Claims Of Abuse
During a divorce or child custody dispute, it is not unheard of for one party to falsely accuse the other of domestic violence in hopes of gaining an advantage. It is critical that you have an experienced domestic violence lawyer defend your interests at the first hearing after an ex parte order has been issued against you. If you are the target of a protective order that is based on false accusations, we can help you clear your name.
The Wright Family Law Group can help victims of domestic violence obtain protective orders and we have been doing this for many years in Massachusetts. We also defend the rights of family members who have been unfairly subjected to a protective order because of false claims of abuse. If you need a protective order, we can guide you through the process. Conversely, if you are the target of a protective order that is based on false accusations, we can help you clear your name.
Domestic violence can end with you. Let us help. If you’ve been falsely accused, you don’t have to put up with the lies. Call us today toll free at 978-851-2291, or contact us online.
For your convenience, appointments may be scheduled during flexible hours. Our office is centrally located in Tewksbury near Route 93 and Route 495. We serve clients in Middlesex and Essex County.