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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.

After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some ideas for things that you may want to do when leaving court – you will have to decide which ones work for you:

  • Make several copies of the protective order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the protective order.  If they have not, you may want to ask if you can deliver a copy to them.
  • Take steps to safety plan, including possibly changing your locks and your phone number.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not.  It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  For more information please visit the Staying Safe page.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

You can call the police and/or report the violation to the court.  It can be a crime and contempt of court for violating an abuse prevention order.  Under Massachsuetts law, a violation of an order can be punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to 2.5 years, or both.  In addition, the judge is also supposed to order the abuser to complete a certified batterer's intervention program (unless the judge finds good cause why this should not happen).  Note: If the judge determines that the abuser violated the order to retaliate against being reporting to the department of revenue for failure to pay child support payments or for the establishment of paternity, the abuser will be ordere to pay a fine of at least $1,000 and be sentenced to at least 60 days in jail.*   

If the police are not involved or do not arrest him/her or file a criminal complaint against him/her, you may still be able to go to the district court and take out a criminal complaint against him/her.

* M.G.L.A. 209A § 7

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back to topHow do I change or extend my abuse prevention order?

You may apply to the court to have your abuse prevention order extended, up through the day that it expires, even if no new acts of abuse occurred while you have had your order.*  You will have to go back to court for a short hearing to tell the judge why you believe it is necessary to extend the order. A judge can extend your order for another time period (usually another year) or, in some cases, make your order “permanent.” You may be able to extend your order without the abuser appearing in court.

For any other changes, call the clerk of court to find out how you can include them on your order. You can find this contact information on the MA Courthouse Locations page. The court will usually schedule another hearing and give the abuser the chance to appear before changing your order.

* M.G.L.A. 209A § 3

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back to topCan I get my abuse prevention order if I move?

Your abuse prevention order can be enforced even if you move to another state. If you move, your order must be given “full faith and credit” in any other state, territorial or tribal court, which means that your order will be good wherever you go.  Please see our Moving with an Abuse Prevention Order page.

If you are moving to a new state, you may want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order in a new state.

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