Massachusetts has several ways of obtaining a restraining order or a protective order.
Criminal No Contact Order
If you are a victim in a criminal case, you may ask the District Attorney to request a no contact order as terms of the defendant's release. In the event they violate this order, the defendant could have his bail revoked pending trial, or could be charged with another crime, such as intimidating a witness.
209A Restraining Order
In Massachusetts, under 209A, if you are in an adult or minor family or household member, you may petition the district court for a 209A restraining order.
To proceed with a 209A restraining order, you may file a complaint at the district court, family court or superior court in which you reside.
Upon the filing of the complaint, a judge will hold an ex parte hearing to determine if there is a sufficient basis to grant the restraining order. If the judge determines that this basis exists, the judge will schedule the matter for a second hearing so that the other party may be given notice.
At the second hearing, both parties are permitted to testify as to why the order should or should not be granted. If the order is granted, the judge may extend it for up to 1 year.
Violations of the 209A Restraining Order are criminal in nature. The defendant can be charged criminally for each violation of this order.
There is no filing fee for a 209A order.
Complaint for Restraining Order
In the event a party does not meet the requirements set for in 209A for a family or household member, a party can file a complaint in the Superior Court for a restraining order. This is the proper venue to file a complaint against a friend, coworker, neighbor or landlord.
To do so, a complaint must allege the reasons for the restraining order. Like the 209A order, the victim would proceed in front of a judge ex parte, then, if the order is granted, the judge would schedule the hearing for a 2 party complaint.
The Superior Court Order requires that the victim pay both a filing fee, as well as a restraining order fee and service fees, unless the victim is indigant.
Anti Harrassment and Anti Abuse Laws under MGL 258E
In 2010, Massachusetts enacted antiharrassment and antiabuse laws, which are less restrictive than the 209A laws in terms of granting the orders. Unlike MGL 209A, this statute does not limit the class that can apply for the order. There is no requirement for a familial or household relationship. The order can be applied for at any District, Superior, Family or Juvenile Court having jurisdiction over the victim. Like the 209A order, the court would hear the initial complaint ex parte. If the court determines that there is a basis for the order, a temporary order is granted, and the matter is scheduled for a 2 party hearing where the defendant would receive notice of the hearing.
Harrassment is defined as:
- 3 or more acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at a specific person committed with the intent to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property, and that does in fact cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property; or
- an act that by force, threat or duress causes another to involuntarily engage in sexual relations; or
- constitutes a violation of section 13B,13F, 13H, 22, 22A, 23, 24, 24B, 43 or 43A of chapter 265 or section 3 of chapter 272.
Abuse is defined as:
- attempting to cause or causing physical harm or placing another in fear of imminent physical harm.
The requirements under this statute are less burdensome than those under MGL 209A, and lessen the burned of the victim to obtain a protective order.
A violation of an order under 258E is criminal in nature, and criminal charges can be brought against the defendant for each violation.
There is no filing fee to apply for this type of protective order.