October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you love is a victim of domestic violence, it is important that you are aware of the protections that are available through the Massachusetts Court system. One such protection is a 209A Abuse Prevention Order. A person can seek relief under Chapter 209A if he/she has suffered abuse from their spouse, former spouse, an adult or minor blood relative present or prior household member, the parent of their child, or a person with whom they have or had a substantive dating or engagement relationship, with the complaint being filed in the Superior Court, the Boston Municipal Court, the Probate and Family Court or the District Court with venue over the victim’s residence (note that a person in a “dating or engagement relationship” cannot file in Superior Court).
In this context, abuse is defined as:
a) An actual physical harm or an attempt to harm another; or
b) Placing another in fear of imminent, serious physical harm; or
c) Causing another to involuntarily engage in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress.
There are various protections that the Court can implement under a 209A Abuse Prevention Order and a violation of these orders by the defendant is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine. The protective orders may include:
a) An order directing the defendant to refrain from abusing the plaintiff;
b) A no contact order;
c) An order requiring the defendant to leave and remain away from the house that he/she shares with the plaintiff;
d) An order for defendant to remain away from plaintiff’s workplace;
e) An order of temporary custody of a minor child to the plaintiff, as well as a temporary restraining and no contact order relative to the minor child.
- Jennifer R. Silva, Esq.