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COVID-19 Restraining Order Laws in Massachusetts

How Has COVID-19 Affected Restraining Orders in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, there are two different types of restraining orders that a person can request from a court. The first is called an Abuse Prevention Order, governed by G.L.c. 209A. The second one is called a Harassment Prevention Order, which is governed by G.L.c. 258E. An experienced retraining order attorney in Massachusetts can help guide you in the process of filing for any of these orders.

Abuse Prevention Orders

This type of order can be requested for anyone that is a family member or a household member to the plaintiff (or the person who is requesting the abuse prevention order). This includes familial relationships, romantic relationships, or residential relationships (typically when you’re just living with a person in the same household). “Abuse” is defined as an occurrence of one or more  of the following acts between family members and/or household members: the person must have either harmed or tried to physically harm you, the person put you in imminent fear of being harmed, or if you have been forced, threaten, or, under duress, involuntarily engaged in any sexual relations with the person. Basically, any act of violence against you by a family member or a household member can be grounds for an Abuse Prevention Order. A plaintiff can request an Abuse Prevention Order either where they live or where they formerly lived but had to leave in order to avoid abuse.

While a prevention order is a civil court matter, violation of a prevention order is a criminal and very serious offense which carries up to a 2 ½ year house of correction sentence if convicted. If you are seeking this type of order, or an order of this kind has been issued against you, please contact an experienced attorney who can explain to process to you in greater detail.

Harassment Prevention Orders

Harassment Prevention Orders differ from an Abuse Prevention Orders. One key difference is that this type of restraining order is not limited to a person who a familial or household relationship to the plaintiff.  Additionally, a Harassment Prevention Order requires that 3 or more acts that were willful and malicious, that were aimed at the plaintiff, the acts intended to cause the plaintiff fear, intimidation, abuse, or property damage, and actually caused fear, intimidation, abuse, or property damage.

Just like an Abuse Prevention Order, a request for a Harassment Prevention Order is a civil matter, but violation of an order can be a criminal offense. It is important to consult with an experienced restraining order attorney when seeking this type of order, or if an order has been issued against you, to explain the process in greater detail.

Restraining Orders in the Age of COVID-19

Due to the recent pandemic, courts have shifted the way they are hearing cases. If you need to file any type of restraining order, and it is during normal business hours, you can call the clerk at the court that you intend to file and ask how that particular court is proceeding. If you need a restraining order when the courts are closed, there is an “on-call” judge.  If you or a loved one is seeking an emergency order, or an order has been issued against you, it is important that you Contact an experienced restraining order attorney who will explain the process of filing restraining orders during the pandemic in more detail.