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Legal Information: Massachusetts

Restraining Orders

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December 14, 2023

Am I eligible for an abuse prevention order?

You may be eligible for an abuse prevention order if an act of abuse (as defined by law) was committed by any of the following family or household members:

  • your spouse or former spouse;
  • someone with whom you live, currently or in the past;
  • someone related to you by blood or marriage;
  • someone with whom you have a child in common; or
  • someone with whom you have or had a “substantial dating relationship.”1

To determine whether or not your dating relationship was “substantial,” the judge will look at the following factors:

  • the length of the relationship;
  • the nature of the relationship;
  • how often you interacted with each other; and
  • how long ago you broke up if you are no longer dating.1

Note: If you don’t qualify for an abuse prevention order, you may qualify for a harassment prevention order. For more information, see our Harassment Prevention Order section.

1 M.G.L.A. 209A § 1

Can a minor file for an abuse prevention order?

In order for a minor to get an abuse prevention order, an adult is supposed to file the complaint on the minor’s behalf. The section of the complaint form that refers to minors specifically states “I am under the age of 18, and _____, my______ (relationship to Plaintiff) has filed this complaint for me.”

If you want to see how judges in your county typically handle a minor who comes to court without an adult, you can contact your local domestic violence organization or legal services organization. Go to our MA Places that Help page for referrals.

Can I get an abuse prevention order against a minor?

The section of the law that lists the protections that you can get in an abuse prevention order, such as ordering the abuser not to contact or abuse you, clearly states that they can be ordered “whether the defendant is an adult or minor.”1

1 See M.G.L.A. § 3

Can I get an abuse prevention order against a same-sex partner?

In Massachusetts, you may apply for an abuse prevention order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible for an abuse prevention order? You must also be the victim of an act of abuse, which is explained in What is the legal definition of abuse in Massachusetts?

You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

How much does it cost to get an abuse prevention order? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no filing fee to get an abuse prevention order. In addition, you cannot be charged for:

  • certified copies of the order;
  • any copies of the file that you may need for future court action or as a result of the loss or destruction of your copies.1

You do not need a lawyer to file for a protection order but it is often helpful to have one, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer who is knowledgeable about abuse prevention orders to make sure that your legal rights are protected. Go to our MA Places that Help page for legal referrals and for contact information for local domestic violence agencies in your area that may be able to help you fill out the necessary court forms.

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

1 M.G.L.A. 209A § 3