First, you have to have a relationship with the person you are seeking an order against. You must have one of the following relationships to qualify for a restraining order:
1. Current or former spouse
2. Related by blood or marriage
3. Parents of one or more children (even if never married or lived together)
4. Member or former member of the same household
5. Dating relationship
Second, you have to have suffered a form of abuse as defined by the law (M.G.L. c. 209A):
1. Defendant caused you physical harm
2. Defendant attempted to cause you physical harm
3. Defendant placed you in fear of imminent serious physical harm
4. Defendant forced you to engage in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress
If you meet both of these basic requirements, then you may petition the court for a restraining order.
Go to the District Court
You can go to your local district court to request an order. You will fill out paperwork giving the court information about you and the defendant. You should have as much information about the defendant for the court, such as date of birth, social security number, address and workplace. You should be prepared to write an affidavit, which is a sworn statement telling the court why you need the protection. Once you fill out the paperwork, you will then go in front of the judge to tell them why you are seeking an order. Many domestic violence programs provide advocates to help you fill out the paperwork and stand with you in front of the judge. Call your local program to see if they offer this service.
If you need a restraining order when the court is closed, call your local police department for assistance.
Relief You Can Get From a Restraining Order
If the judge decides to grant the order, there are certain things you can request. You can ask for any of the following:
1. Defendant NOT abuse you
2. Defendant stay away from you
3. Defendant vacate and stay away from your residence (even if it is shared)
4. Impound your address if defendant does not know where you live
5. Defendant stay away from your workplace
6. Custody of your children
7. Defendant stay away from your children and their school/daycare
8. Visitation with the children (note, only can be done in probate and family court)
9. Defendant pay temporary child/spousal support
10. Defendant can get personal belongings
11. Compensation for losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse
12. Defendant must turn firearms and FID cards to local police
After Obtaining the Initial Order
Once you obtain the order (often called an Ex-Parte Order) you have to have the defendant served with a copy of the order. The police department where the defendant lives will serve the order. The initial order will be good for about 10 days. If you want to extend the order beyond the 10 days, you have to go back to court to request the extension. If you do not appear, the order will be vacated. The defendant has the opportunity to appear at the hearing and tell the court why the order should not be extended. The court will hear both sides and make a decision whether or not to extend the order for up to a year.
It is important to speak with an experienced advocate or attorney to discuss the particular facts of your case and any specific safety planning you may require. Although you have an order, it requires a plan for enforcement. Your safety is paramount, and speaking with an experienced professional can help you explore all options.
Additional resources provided by the author
If you need to speak with an advocate, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE.
In Massachusetts, call the statewide hotline 1-877-785-2020. They can talk to you about the specifics of your case and refer you to a local domestic violence program for further assistance.