Can I get a 209A Abuse Prevention Order if I am under 18?

If you are under 18, you can still get an Abuse Prevention (209A) Order.  If you are under 18, the judge usually wants a parent or guardian to:

  • file for you,
  • give you permission to file, or
  • come to your hearing.

What if I do not want my parents or guardian involved?

If you are “a mature minor,” the judge should not refuse to issue a 209A order to you “simply because no adult is present.”

If the person who abused you is a family member or caretaker, you do not have to get a parent or guardian to:

  • file for you,
  • give you permission to file, or
  • come to your hearing.

What if the person who abused me is a family member or caretaker?

If you go to court for a 209A order to protect you from a family member or caretaker, the judge is supposed to appoint a lawyer or a “guardian ad litem” (GAL) for you.

A lawyer will represent you and argue for what you think is best.

A GAL will tell the judge what he or she thinks is best for you.

The judge is supposed to appoint the lawyer or GAL before starting the hearing.

Important

You can ask the judge for a lawyer. A lawyer can give you legal advice about what might happen in your case.

If it’s an emergency -  like you have nowhere to stay and the person who abused you is a family member or caretaker the judge might ask DCF to come to court right away to take custody of you. Your lawyer should let you know this might happen.

If the judge decides there are good reasons to issue a 209A order, he or she is supposed to report to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). This report is called a “51A report”. If DCF gets a 51A report of suspected child abuse, they will probably do an investigation. If the report comes from a judge in a 209A case, they are even more likely to investigate.

What if the person who abused me is not a family member or caretaker?

If you go to court for a 209A order:

  • to protect you from someone who is not a family member or caretaker, like your boyfriend or girlfriend, and
  • you do not have a parent or guardian with you,

the judge is supposed to get your parent or guardian to come to court before the hearing  starts.

Your parent or guardian may not be able to get to court before the hearing. They may be:

  • unable to get time off from work,
  • unable to leave the house or
  • have some other reason.

If it is not practical for them to get to court in time, the judge can ask you to show the court you have permission to start your case without them.  You might:

  • Bring a note from your parent or guardian that says they give you permission to start the 209A case without them present, or
  • Ask the judge to call your parent or guardian to get permission to start the case without them.

If you cannot get

  • your parent or guardian to court before the hearing starts, or
  • permission to start without them,

the judge should consider appointing a lawyer or a "guardian ad litem" (GAL).

A lawyer will represent you and argue for what you think is best.

A GAL will tell the judge what he or she thinks is best for you.

The judge should not refuse to issue an abuse prevention order just because you cannot get an adult to come to court. The Guidelines say you are a mature minor if you are 16 or 17 years old.

If you are

  • under 16, and
  • unable to have a parent or guardian present,

you can ask your parent or guardian to tell the judge they think you are mature. They can write this in their permission note or tell the judge on the phone

The rules about 209A cases where the plaintiff is a minor are in Section 1:06 of the 2011 Abuse Prevention Guidelines, page 18.

Produced by Attorney Jeffrey L. Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Created February 2015

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