Grounds for RO in MA

WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR A RESTRAINING ORDER IN MASSACHUSETTS?

In Massachusetts restraining orders serve as a form of protection for individuals seeking safety from abuse, harassment, and other forms of harmful conduct. Abuse Prevention Orders and Harassment Prevention Orders offer security and peace of mind to those who find themselves in threatening situations. Understanding the specific grounds that outline the requirements for each type of protective order is essential.

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Let’s explore the grounds needed to obtain a restraining order in Massachusetts:

Definition and Purpose of Restraining Orders

A restraining order, also known as a protective order or order of protection, is a legal directive issued by a court that prohibits an individual from contacting or approaching another person. The main purpose of a restraining order is to protect the safety and well-being of the person seeking the order, typically referred to as the petitioner or the protected person. By legally mandating the abuser to stay away from the petitioner, restraining orders help prevent further abuse, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault.

Abuse Prevention Orders (209A)

To qualify for an Abuse Prevention Order (commonly known as a restraining order) the petitioner must demonstrate that they have been the victim of one or more of the following forms of abuse:

  • Physical harm or attempts to cause physical harm.
  • Placing someone in fear of serious physical harm.
  • Coercing someone into sexual relations through force, threat, or duress.

Additionally, Massachusetts law requires that a certain relationship between the petitioner and the defendant exist. Eligible relationships include those between family or household members, such as spouses, former spouses, individuals related by blood or marriage, those living together, and individuals who have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship.

Harassment Prevention Orders (258E)

Massachusetts law also provides for Harassment Prevention Orders, designed to protect individuals from harassment, regardless of the relationship between the petitioner and the defendant. Harassment is defined by three (3) or more acts of willful and malicious conduct, aimed at one specific individual, that seriously alarms or annoys that individual, and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. The actions must be intended to cause fear, intimidation, abuse, or damage to property and go beyond mere annoyance or displeasure. This broad definition captures a range of behaviors, including stalking, that the law recognizes as deserving of special protection.

Evidence and Documentation Required

When seeking a restraining order, presenting strong evidence is of utmost importance. Evidence can vary but often includes:

  • Police reports documenting incidents of abuse or harassment.
  • Medical records of injuries related to the abuse.
  • Written statements or testimonies from witnesses who have observed the abuse or harassment.
  • Photographs of injuries, damages to property, or any other visual evidence that supports the claim of abuse or harassment.

Evidence helps to substantiate a petitioner or defendant’s claims, providing the court with a basis upon which to either grant or deny the restraining order. It is important to gather as much relevant and detailed evidence as possible to build a compelling case, or alternatively contest a restraining order.

Legal Process and Considerations

To file for a restraining order in Massachusetts, the petitioner must go to the appropriate court – either the District Court, the Probate and Family Court, or the Boston Municipal Court – and fill out the necessary forms. These forms require detailed information about the petitioner, the abuser, and the nature of the abuse or harassment that necessitates a restraining order.

After the forms are completed, they are reviewed by a judge. The judge may issue a temporary restraining order (ex parte order) if they believe an immediate danger is posed to the petitioner. This temporary order is typically valid until a hearing can be held to determine whether a longer-term restraining order is warranted. A hearing is usually held within ten (10) business days. During a hearing the judge decides whether the grounds for a restraining order have been met based upon the evidence presented.

The legal standard for a restraining order is based on the “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that for a restraining order to be granted, it must be more likely than not that the abuse or harassment occurred as described by the petitioner.

Navigating the legal system and understanding the nuances of this process can be very challenging, which makes legal representation invaluable.

Consult With Our Massachusetts Restraining Order Attorneys

If you or someone you know is considering filing or defending themselves against a restraining order, our attorneys at Markey Law Partners are here to help. Our team of experienced Massachusetts restraining order attorneys can guide you through each step, ensuring that your case is handled with the care and expertise it deserves.
Contact us today for support and legal advice tailored to your case.

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