Unfortunately, sometimes good people find themselves in bad situations – including ones where abuse or potential abuse is imminent. In these troubling times, it is important for victims to know that help is available. Sometimes, that help may be in the form of court-ordered protection. In Massachusetts, a “209A order” (also termed an “abuse prevention order” or “protective order”) is a court order issued to provide an individual with protection from sexual or physical harm caused by actual force or the threat of harm from a family or household member. In certain cases, a court may issue a 209A order against someone other than a family or household member, but typically only if an intimate relationship existed at some point between the victim and the defendant.
Because a request for a 209A order is a civil action filed by one individual against another, the district attorney is not involved; and criminal penalties are not issued. This means that the person accused of abuse is not fined or arrested solely because the victim obtains a 209A order. Rather, the court issues an order directing the defendant to do or refrain from doing certain things. It is, however, a crime for the defendant to violate a 209A order in effect at the time.
The person seeking protection may obtain a 209A order in a few different ways:
- Emergency protective orders. The first situation is when the courts are closed, such as after hours, on the weekends, and holidays. If a victim is in immediate danger of abuse during times the courts are closed, he or she may go to the nearest police department and seek assistance. Law enforcement will then attempt to obtain for the victim an emergency temporary protective order by contacting the on-call judge. This temporary order remains in effect only until the close of the next day that the court is open. In order for the protection to continue, a victim must go to the court to request an additional order.
- Temporary (ex parte) orders. In situations when a victim seeks to request a temporary abuse prevention order during business hours, he or she may request one from court. In these cases, both parties need not be present for the court to issue a 209A protective order. If the sitting judge determines that a domestic relationship exists between the victim and accused defendant and that the victim legitimately fears that he or she will suffer imminent harm at the hands of the defendant, the judge likely will issue a temporary 209A protective order. This temporary order remains in effect for 10 days and the defendant will be notified of the existence of the order.
- Long-term orders: Once a temporary 209A order is issued, it is possible for a victim to seek a long-term abuse prevention order. In this situation, both parties must be provided with an opportunity to be heard at a court hearing (i.e., the defendant must be given the opportunity to tell his or her side of the story). The defendant may choose not attend; but he or she must be provided with sufficient notice of the hearing. The victim, however, must attend this hearing. If not, any temporary orders in existence likely will expire. Unless very special circumstances exist, a “final” 209A order will remain in effect for up to one year – at which time the court will schedule another hearing to determine if and why the order must be extended.
So, what does a 209A order actually do?
A 209A order is not referred to as a restraining order, necessarily, because it does more than just “restrain” an accused abuser. A 209A order provides protection to a victim in many ways, such as by ordering the accused defendant to stop harming, threatening to harm, or abusing the victim or the victim’s child; ordering the accused defendant to refrain from contacting the victim or the victim’s child in any way; ordering the victim temporary custody of minor children; ordering the accused defendant to pay monetary support to the victim and/or the victim’s children; and so much more. Essentially, a judge may order an accused defendant to do or refrain from doing anything to make the victim and the victim’s children feel safe and secure.
If you need a 209A protective order, contact Attorney Rosanne Klovee today.
Attorney Rosanne Klovee handles all aspects of family law and domestic relations – including helping victims obtain emergency, temporary, and final 209A orders. We understand that our clients may find themselves in very difficult situations – sometimes in an instant. Attorney Klovee has significant experience helping clients obtain 209A orders in many different types of circumstances. She has practiced before virtually every county in Massachusetts and treats every client with respect and dignity.