Legal Information

Court Advocacy
As victims take the important step of choosing to leave a violent relationship, their risk of serious physical injury and even death by the abuser increases dramatically. Court Advocates help orient clients, answer clients’ questions about procedures and court personnel, decipher unfamiliar and seemingly mystifying behaviors, and offer nonjudgmental support and encouragement. Risk assessment, safety planning and referrals to viable, effective, and appropriate resources are crucial to the health and well-being of the victims and their families during this period of heightened risk.

One of the options a victim may choose is to seek a restraining order (209A protective order). However, protection orders do not guarantee your safety.

Restraining Orders
A restraining order, also referred to as a 209A protective order, is one option to consider in seeking safety from an abuser. The information below describes court orders and how to get one, how they are enforced and how to make a decision about seeking an order.

Restraining orders are only a piece of a larger safety plan. It is important that you make a safety plan in addition to obtaining a restraining order. A shelter can help you know what is available to you. Call 1-877-785-2020 to be connected to the program nearest you. In an emergency call 9-1-1 for police assistance.

The law for restraining orders (209A) covers those people who are or have been in any of the following relationships:

  • A substantive dating relationship
  • Living together in the same household
  • Engaged or married
  • Have a child together
  • Related by blood or marriage

How Does A Judge Decide Whether to Issue the Order?
Under the law, the judge needs to determine:

  • If the relationship is covered by the law, and
  • If the victim has shown "a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse"

How to Get a Restraining Order
A legal advocate can make getting a 209A less confusing, and his/her services are free. Call your local battered women's program and ask for assistance or ask at the court if there is a legal advocate available.

  • You will then need to go before a judge, who will ask you questions about your safety and has the authority to grant a temporary (10 day) restraining order at that time. You will be given a copy to carry with you at all times and a copy to file with the police.

  • The court will tell the police that the order has been issued and the police will then serve the abuser with the order. You should tell the court the

  • Go to the Clerk's Office at the courthouse in your community and complete an affidavit requesting a restraining order.

  • You should tell the court the whereabouts of the abuser. If there is a vacate order, the police can enforce this by being at your home as the abuser leaves.

  • Within 10 days you will attend another hearing where your abuser may be present to tell his/her side of the story. This may be very difficult, and it helps to have an advocate present for support. You will tell your story again, and at this time the judge can extend the 209A protective order for up to a year.

  • To get an emergency protection order on holidays, nights, or weekends, call the police. They will contact an emergency response judge. If the abuser violates this order, call the police immediately. Violation of this order is a criminal offense, and penalties can include jail terms.

A Restraining Order Can Do More Than Protect You
Any of the following provisions that apply to your situation may be added to the basic order. (Note: The initial order lasts up to ten days but can be extended for one year.)

  • Restraining Order - Your abuser must not come near you or abuse you again. In Massachusetts, all restraining orders require that the abuser surrender any firearms and licenses to carry a firearm.
  • Vacate Order - Your abuser must move out of the shared residence.
  • Child Support Order - You will receive temporary support for your children.
  • Custody Order - You will receive temporary custody of your children.
  • Restitution Order - You will receive repayment for lost wages, medical expenses, or other costs and damages.