When The Going Gets Tough,

We'll Be There With You

Massachusetts domestic violence laws: Who is protected?

On Behalf of | Jul 30, 2021 | Domestic Violence

In the state of Massachusetts, it is against the law to commit domestic violence against a family or household member. Not only does the law specifically state who is considered a family or household member, but it is clear regarding what constitutes domestic violence and what the penalties may be for abuse.

What is domestic violence?

Sometimes referred to as domestic abuse, domestic violence goes beyond just physical injury. Domestic violence includes an attempt to cause physical harm or make someone fear that they are about to be physically harmed, violating a protective order by the court, and involuntary sexual relations between family and household members.

Who is considered a family or household member?

child hand with father family member domestic violence, boston, massachusetts criminal defense lawyer

Under the law,  family and household members include a wide range of individuals:

  • Couples who have a child together regardless of marital status;
  • Formerly married spouses;
  • Married spouses;
  • Individuals related by blood or marriage;
  • Those residing together in the same household regardless of marital status; and
  • Those who are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship.

Arrest guidelines

When responding to domestic violence calls, police must place the safety of family and household victims above all else. If officers believe there is probable cause to arrest someone for domestic violence, they must do so. The officers are required to arrest when they witness or have probable cause to believe that someone has committed aggravated assault or battery, used a dangerous weapon, been violent toward an older person or one with a disability, or kidnapped, stalked or strangled someone. If a family or household member violates a protective order or the police have probable cause to believe that they will violate a protective order, they must make an arrest.

Domestic violence can escalate quickly, which is why law enforcement officers have the ability to arrest someone who they believe has committed the offense. If you or a loved one have been involved in a domestic violence incident, consider speaking to a Massachusetts lawyer to understand your rights.

For more information on domestic violence laws in Massachusetts, check out:


This post is for general informational purposes and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  Consult a Massachusetts attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail; however, contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.