How do abuse prevention orders work in Massachusetts?

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2021 | Domestic Violence

Domestic violence affects an alarming number of people in Massachusetts and throughout the country. Spousal abuse, along with child and elder abuse, are likely the most well-known examples. However, domestic abuse and violence may occur between different family members and people in various relationships. When someone fears for their well-being, seeking an abuse prevention order may become necessary. The process involves explaining the situation to a judge.

Seeking an abuse prevention order

A judge may issue an abuse prevention order, also known as a 209A restraining order, based on the circumstances presented. The order may present a demand to a named individual to cease abusive behavior and also to avoid any contact with the person requesting the order. So, if the abuser threatens the victim or tries to contact him or her, the person would violate the order.

An alleged abuser will have a chance to address the complaint and accusations in court. However, the judge may issue a temporary order until the court date arrives. Typically, the judge sets the court date no more than 10 business days away. An emergency order may go into effect under certain circumstances, as well.

A civil matter

Some may confuse the 209A restraining order process with a criminal complaint. That is not an accurate belief since the abuse prevention order is actually a civil action. The domestic violence victim acts as a plaintiff who petitions the court for a civil remedy.

Again, the defendant has a chance to tell his or her version of events. Someone could make false allegations to hurt another person or to sway a child custody decision. Someone falsely accused could provide counterevidence in court to establish the truth.