Massachusetts Legal Blog

Should I File a Restraining Order? How Do I File? – RO Laws in Massachusetts

Restraining orders, or 209A protection orders, are taken very seriously in Massachusetts. Filing a restraining order impacts the daily life of all involved, including any children the parties may share or live with. The decision to file for one is not to be taken lightly, however the decision to put off filing a restraining order can be dangerous. It may be difficult to decide when to file for a restraining order and the process itself may be confusing for some.

Are You in Physical Danger?

The exact moment when you consider filing an order may come at a difficult time and under duress. You may benefit from speaking to an experienced family law attorney in your area to discuss your options. In addition, it is important to realize if you are in immediate or imminent danger that action is needed and inaction could pose a real physical threat. There are certain criteria that must be met before an order will be issued. It is important to know that criteria. First, the person you want to file against must be someone with whom you have a close relationship. That may mean they are a spouse, ex-spouse, you are dating or have dated, a blood relative, a marriage relative, or someone with whom you have a child in common. Then, you will want to assess the danger of the situation. Are you in immediate danger of physical harm? Has there been an attempt to harm you or your children? Have you been forced to engage in involuntary sexual activity? Have you been threatened with physical harm? If you have answered yes to any of these, then it is completely appropriate and wise to request a restraining order.

Restraining Order Implications

Even if a person clearly needs protection from domestic abuse, it is important to explore carefully whether pursuing a domestic abuse restraining order is a reasonable and safe option.
There is no guarantee that an abuse prevention proceeding will not be public or that other confidential information can be disclosed in open court.

Restraining Order Process

Under most circumstances, the process for initiating a Chapter 209A proceeding begins with the filing in court of a complaint for protection.

The complaint is almost always filed and heard ex parte at first, meaning the adverse party will not receive notice or an opportunity to be heard at this stage.

When the clerk has docketed the complaint and the probation office has run a criminal background check on the defendant, the case is assigned to a judge for hearing at the earliest possible time that day.

In preparing the complaint, be certain to fill in all of the required information, including Section K9, which asks for specific additional relief. Some persons prefer to have their address impounded, or not disclosed, and then should not indicate their address, but rather file a request for address impoundment.

A judge then can grant a 10-day order and give you a copy. The police then serve the temporary order. Within those 10 days, there will be a hearing where you and the person served will both get a chance to present you sides. If a judge believes an order is still warranted, the restraining order can be extended up to one year. If the incident that drives you to pursue a restraining order occurs on a weekend or holiday, call the police, and they will contact an emergency judge to issue the 10-day restraining order.

Anyone facing an immediate threat of harm should call 911 and seek police help. It is imperative to understand that when there is physical danger involved, legal help through filing a restraining order can be a major step towards ensuring your personal safety and moving forward from a difficult time.

By Anna Shapiro