THE ABUSE PREVENTION LAW (209A)
The Abuse Prevention Law offers protection to people who are physically abused and to those who are at serious risk of physical abuse. The law protects abused housemates, roommates, husband and wife, substantial dating relationships, and family members.
For more information, please visit Mass.gov:
What is a “209A” Order?
An Abuse Prevention Order, called a “209A” or a “Restraining Order”, is a civil court action that provides immediate protection from physical or sexual harm caused by force, or threat of harm from a family or household member. This includes:
- a spouse or former spouse
- a present or former household member
- a relative by blood or marriage
- the parent of your minor child
- a person with whom you have had a substantial dating relationship
- A person under age 18, can obtain a 209A order with some restrictions:
Generally, a parent or guardian needs to be present, but the Judge can decide to issue a limited 209A order if the minor appears to be in danger.
In some cases, the Department of Children and Families may offer assistance in gaining help for a minor.
Many high schools and colleges also offer support groups for students in violent relationships.
Obtaining a 209A
In the courts of Hampden County, there will be a Victim Witness Advocate from the District Attorney´s Office to help you complete the paper work and to discuss the option of filing criminal charges against your abuser. The advocate will assist you.
- A 209A order may be obtained in any district or probate and family court in Massachusetts.
- An emergency 209A order can be obtained through any police department after court hours and on weekends.
- You do not need a lawyer to file for a 209A order.
- You may apply for protection in the district or probate court which serves your community.
- If you find it necessary to flee your home to avoid abuse, you may go to the district or probate court serving the community where you are staying.
- If you need further assistance or do not know where the nearest courthouse is located, contact the local police department for assistance.
- You don´t have to file criminal charges to obtain a 209A order.
- However, criminal charges may be necessary in holding a batterer responsible for acts committed against you.
The 209A Application
- You may request the Judge to order that the abuser stop abusing you, have no contact with you or a child in your custody and move out of your house or apartment.
- A 209A can provide you with temporary support and custody of your minor children. Only the Probate and Family Court, however, can decide child visitation rights.
- You may request payment for medical costs due to injuries and loss of wages.
- You may ask that the abuser not contact you and that your new address be kept confidential from the abuser for your safety.
- You must also disclose any other existing 209A order from any court or any probate court action in which you are involved.
- On the application or complaint form for a 209A order you will need to make a sworn statement (affidavit), describing the facts of a recent or past incident(s) of abuse.
- It is also very important to provide as much information about the abuser as possible.
The Initial 209A Hearing
- After you have completed the 209A application form, return it to the clerk and ask when the court will hear the restraining orders.
- They will tell you the time and courtroom location for the hearing.
- At the hearing, the Judge will ask why you need restraining order protection and will review your application forms and affidavit.
- In some courts, a “209A Briefing Session” is held before the hearing and a Court Advocate will explain the hearing process and be with you in the courtroom.
- The Judge may grant or deny the 209A order after speaking with you.
- If the Judge approves the request, you will receive a Temporary Order for up to a ten day period. Please keep your copy of the order with you at all times! This means a court date will be scheduled within 10 business days for you to return to court for a Permanent Order.
- The advocate may refer you to a program to discuss possible options (i.e. shelters, housing, public assistance, etc.)
- The police will deliver (serve) a copy of the 209A order to your abuser and will keep a duplicate on file at the police station.
- It is important to provide the police with the abuser’s current home and work addresses so they can serve the order.
- If the order is denied, it is essential to work with the advocate to prepare a safety plan
The Ten Day Hearing
- The Ten Day Hearing requires that you return to court on the date given on the order, or the order will not be in effect after that date.
- The hearing offers the chance for both parties, you and the abuser, to come before the Judge and offer information (evidence) as to why a permanent 209A order should or should not be granted.
- Bring any hospital records, photographs or police reports you may have for the Judge to review.
- You may also bring a support person with you.
- The abuser may be present at the ten day hearing and may oppose the 209A order.
- If the abuser is not present and has been served with the order, the Judge can still grant the order for up to one year.
- If a 209A order is issued by the Judge for a year, you must return to court for another order at the end of that year or it will be dismissed.
- Any changes in the order before that date must be made by a Judge with both you and the abuser appearing in the same court where the order was first given.
- A request to change or amend the order can be made at the Clerk´s Office.
Violation of a 209A
- Once a 209A order is issued, violation of the terms is a criminal offense.
- Violations of orders to refrain from abuse, for no contact and to vacate a household, multiple family dwelling or workplace can be prosecuted under c. 209A.
- Call the police immediately if the abuser violates the order
- Show the order to the police and explain the violation. For example: a punch, slap, threat, refusal to vacate the house or apartment, unauthorized contact with you either in person or telephone at your home or work place.
- The police must arrest the abuser if they have reasonable cause to believe or witness that the terms of the order were violated.
- Once a criminal complaint has been issued or an arrest made, the abuser will be charged with the crime or crimes at an arraignment proceeding in the district court.
- A bail hearing will be held to determine whether the defendant/abuser will be released or held in jail until trial.
- If they are released from custody, the court must make a reasonable effort to notify you of the release, even if you are not present in court.
- If you do not call the police, you may be able to file criminal complaints on your own at the Clerk´s Office in the district court.
- A Victim Witness Advocate can assist you with that process.