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Boston Restraining Orders

A restraining order (sometimes referred to as a protective order or abuse protection order) is a legal order issued by a Massachusetts state court and provides protection from physical or sexual harm. And based on my experience, most restraining orders are typically put in place against a member of the immediate family for domestic violence.

The Massachusetts Abuse Prevention Act (209A Protective Orders) makes it very clear that abuse that occurs more than once between family or household members meets the definition of abuse.

And the definition of abuse is as follows:

  • Forcing a member of the family or household to have involuntary sexual relations
  • Threatening physical harm to another member of the family or household
  • An attempt at physical abuse – or actual physical abuse

The state even goes deeper with this act and defines who the state considers to be a “household” or “family member” – here’s a more detailed look.

  • A person whom you have dated
  • A roommate you used to live with
  • Your current or former spouse
  • Your child’s other parent
  • A person you are, or were, related to by marriage
  • A blood relative

Types of Restraining Orders

In Massachusetts, restraining orders are a civil complaint – and only reach a criminal status if the order is violated.

And the state offers two types of orders. One, a “No-Contact Order” which means just that. And two, a “No-Abuse Order” which is granted when the persons involved still live in the same household.

Restraining orders can be obtained from three sources. The most common are in District Court and Probate Court (Family Court). And in rare instances, you can obtain a restraining order in Superior Court.

And the best part of seeking a restraining order is that you do not need an attorney. Granted, I assist my clients regularly with seeking a restraining order as part of their divorce process, but you can ask for a restraining order all by yourself.

If you approach the District Court, there is usually a social worker available on-site that will assist you in requesting a restraining order. In fact, they’ll be at your side throughout the entire process.

So take advantage of this service if you have been threatened or harmed by a member of your family or household. And remember – I can help if you don’t want to face this alone.

If you are are being abused, call me as soon as possible at (617) 273-5110 – or email me by clicking here.

Filling Out a Restraining Order

ROs can be filed in either the district court, probate court, or superior court.  Superior Courts however are not equipped to handle ROs and are limited in their jurisdiction.  It is better to either file in district court or probate court, depending on your particular situation.  If you already have a case pending in the probate courts (divorce, custody, guardianship), then it is a good idea to file any ROs in the same court so everything can be adjudicated together.  ROs can also be filed at police stations after working hours.  These are emergency ROs and are only valid for a period of no more than 24 hours.  You are then required to appear in district court the following day to get an extension, and then 10 day after that in order to extend the RO to one full year.

Restraining Order Hearings

RO hearings can be considered a mini-trial.  Issues such as burden of proof and production, rules of evidence and proper court procedures must be considered.  If your abuser has an attorney present at any of the RO hearings, it is a good idea to have an attorney of your own to help you defend yourself.  There are instances when your abuser can ask the court for a reciprocal RO and the court may grant Mutual ROs.  Because of this and many other reasons, you should have an attorney stand with you when asking the court for a RO.

Lastly, it needs to be said that a RO is simply a piece of paper.  It empowers police and the court to exact harsh punishment to an abuser for violating a RO but the piece of paper will not protect you if the abuser really wanted to hurt you.  If at any time, you feel in danger for yourself or your family, seek help through local police, hospitals, domestic violence shelters or counselors.  Only you have the power to protect yourself and your family.