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Legal Information: Massachusetts

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of December 14, 2023

What protections can I get in an abuse prevention order?

A temporary abuse prevention order can do any of the following:

  1. order the abuser to:
    • not abuse you as follows:
      • not harm you;
      • not threaten you;
      • not attempt to harm you physically;
      • not place you in fear of immediate serious physical harm; and
      • not use force, threat, or duress to make you have sexual relations;1
    • not abuse your children;
    • stop contacting you and any children in your custody;
    • move out of the home if you live together, give you back the house keys, and not return to the home;
    • stay away from your residence and place of work;2
    • stay away from your school;3
    • stay away from your children’s school or daycare;
    • have unsupervised visitation, supervised visitation with certain limitations put in place to protect you and your children, or no visitation;4
    • surrender any and all firearms and firearm identification cards to the police;5 and
    • not abuse, threaten, take, interfere with, hide, harm, or get rid of any animal owned or kept by you, the abuser, or a child living in your household;6
  2. give you:
    • temporary custody of your children - but, see the “Note” below;2
    • possession, care, and control of any domesticated animal owned or kept by you, the abuser, or a child living in your household;6 and
    • other reasonable requests that the judge believes are necessary to protect you from abuse.3

A final abuse prevention order can:

  • include everything mentioned above; and
  • in addition:
    • pay you temporary child support if any children that you have with the abuser live with you;
    • pay you temporary spousal support if you are married; and
    • order the abuser to:
      • pay for any losses you suffered as a direct result of the abuse, such as:
        • lost wages;
        • costs for turning back on any utilities the abuser turned off;
        • any costs you spent due to injuries s/he caused, such as medical bills;
        • costs to change or repair locks to your door;
        • costs for personal property s/he destroyed; or
        • attorney’s fees.7

    Note: If there is already a custody or child support order established or pending from the probate and family court, the judge can still include an order for custody or support in your abuse prevention order as long as it is for a period of time that does not exceed 30 days. The judge in the probate and family court can later change the terms of custody or support, however, and that judge will have the final say in the matter. If there is no established or pending custody order from the probate and family court, then an order of temporary custody can last for the full length of the abuse prevention order.8

    The Massachusetts Court System website has an information sheet that clearly explains in detail what each of the protections mean in your order. For example, if the abuser is ordered to leave the home, s/he cannot turn off the utilities, even if the utilities are in his/her name only. You can read more here.

    1 M.G.L.A. 209A §§ 1; 3; 4; See complaint for protection from abuse, page 1
    2 M.G.L.A. 209A §§ 3; 4
    3 See complaint for protection from abuse, page 1
    4 See complaint for protection from abuse, page 2
    5 M.G.L.A. 209A § 3B
    6 M.G.L.A. 209A § 11(a)
    7 M.G.L.A. 209A § 3; see complaint for protection from abuse, page 1
    8 M.G.L.A. 209A § 3