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Know the Laws: Massachusetts

UPDATED November 28, 2016

Abuse Prevention Orders

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An abuse prevention order is a civil order that provides protection from physical or sexual harm caused by force or threat from a family or household member.

Who can get an abuse prevention order

back to topWho can get an abuse prevention order (209A order)?

You can seek legal protection from acts of abuse done to you or your minor child by:

  • A spouse or former spouse,
  • Someone you live with or used to live with,
  • A relative by blood or marriage,
  • The parent of your child, or
  • A person you have or had a substantial dating relationship with.*
If you are a minor (under 18), you may need a parent or guardian to file a 209(A) order on your behalf. Speak to a local domestic violence organization for information about how MA courts handle such cases.

Note: If the above categories do not fit your situation, you can file for "injunctive relief" and ask for a restraining order (not a 209A abuse prevention order) in superior court. This may apply to cases where the abuser is a neighbor, co-worker, or stranger. You may also be able to file a criminal complaint against that person.

* M.G.L.A. 209A § 1

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back to topCan I get an abuse prevention order against a same-sex partner?

In Massachusetts, you may apply for an abuse prevention order (209A order) against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Who can get an abuse prevention order (209A order)?  You must also be the victim of an act of abuse, which is explained here What is the legal definition of abuse in Massachusetts?

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back to topShould I ask for child support as a part of an abuse prevention order (209A)?

If you have a child with the abuser and need child support, you have the choice of filing for child support as a part of your abuse prevention order or separately from probate court. If you feel that it is safe to do so, you should consider asking for child support as a part of your abuse prevention order.

If you file for child support from probate court, it may take many months for probate court to give you a child support order. If you receive a child support order as a part of an abuse prevention order, it will take effect immediately.

If the abuser is employed and you receive child support through a 209A, a judge should order a "wage attachment" payable to the Department of Revenue.  A wage attachment is when the amount of support the abuser owes will be automatically deducted from his/her paycheck.  However, if s/he is self-employed or works “off the books,” talk to the judge or your attorney about other methods for getting the support payments sent to you.

Judges should use the same child support guidelines in either a separate child support proceeding or an abuse prevention order hearing.  For more information on child support, you can go to our Child Support section as well as visiting the Massachusetts Court System website.

If you ask for child support as a part of an abuse prevention order and:

  • you believe the judge did not give you the amount of child support you should have received under the child support guidelines;
  • the judge ordered a wage attachment payable to the court rather than to the Department of Revenue; or
  • the judge told you to go to probate court or the Department of Revenue;

then you should contact a lawyer or domestic violence advocate for assistance. To find a resource in your area please visit our MA Where to Find Help page.

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back to topHow much does it cost to get an abuse protection order? Do I need a lawyer?

Nothing. There is no filing fee to get an abuse prevention order.*

Although you do not need a lawyer to file for a protection order, it may be to your advantage to have one. This is especially important if the abuser has a lawyer. Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.

If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance and domestic violence agencies on the MA Where to Find Help page. In addition, the domestic violence agencies in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms. You will find contact information for courthouses on the MA Courthouse Locations page.

* M.G.L.A. 209A § 3

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