What can a 209A restraining order do?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

In this article, learn what you can ask the court to include in a 209A restraining order. If you have children, learn what protections you can ask the court for.

What can a 209A restraining order do?

You can ask the court to order whatever you need to be safe. Some of the things the court can do as part of a 209A protective order are:

  • order the person to stop threatening, hurting, or abusing you or your child;
  • order the person not to contact you or your child in any way;
  • order the person to stay away from your home or apartment building, or other places like your job, your school, or your child's school or daycare. The order might say that the person has to stay at least 100 yards away from you and these places.
  • order the person to move out of your home, if they live with you;
  • keep your addresses off court forms so the person doesn't find out where you live or work.
  • give you temporary custody of your child;
  • order the person to support you;
  • order the person to support your child;
  • order the other person to pay you for any expenses that their abuse caused, like lost wages, medical bills, broken locks, changing locks, or damaged property;
  • say that the person can't see your child's school records or go to meetings at the school;
  • order the person not to turn off utilities in their name, or order the person to turn utilities back on if they already turned them off;
  • order the person to give their firearms identification card, and any guns or weapons, to the police;
  • order the person to give you all the keys to the house;
  • order the person to give you the family car and the spare keys;
  • order the person not to spend or take money from a bank account for a short period of time;
  • tell the police to go with you to pick up your things;
  • order the person to take the police with them if they are picking up their things;
  • order any other reasonable thing that you need to feel safe. If you need to get your pets out of the home, ask the judge to order the other person to let you get your animals. If you need something else, ask the judge to order it.

See a sample Abuse Prevention Order page 1 and page 2.

Also see How can a 209A restraining order protect my child?

What does “no contact” mean?

The part of the 209A restraining order that says “you are ordered not to contact the Plaintiff” means that the person is not allowed to contact you themselves or through other people. No contact means NO contact! If the person tries to contact you in any of these ways, they are violating the order.

For example, the abusive person is not allowed to:

  • Talk to you in person
  • Call or FaceTime you
  • Text you
  • Email you
  • Message you on social media
  • Send letters or mail
  • Give you gifts
  • Make other people contact you with a message from the abusive person, or
  • Ask other people to contact you on the abusive person’s behalf.

But, it is not a violation of the restraining order for the abusive person or their lawyer to send you documents as part of a court case, like a divorce.

What happens if the person who abused me violates the order?

If the person you have a 209A restraining order against does something that the order says they cannot do, it is called a "violation".

It is a crime if the person violates the order by abusing you, contacting you, or coming nearer to you than the order says they can.

If the person violates the order, you can report it to the police. The police can investigate and may press charges against them. If the police saw the violation for themselves, or if they have good reason to believe they violated the order, they must arrest the abusive person. If the police arrest them and charge them with a crime, you will be involved in a new court case. Read Criminal Complaints for more information.

If the police are not involved or don’t arrest the person or file a criminal complaint against them, you still have the right to go to the District Court and file a criminal complaint against them yourself.

Also see, If I get a restraining order against someone, will they have a criminal record?

How can a 209A restraining order protect my child?

You can ask the court to:

  • give you custody of your child,
  • order the defendant not to have contact with your child,
  • order the defendant to stay away from your child’s school and daycare, 
  • order the defendant to pay child support, and
  • in the Probate and Family Court only, order supervised visitation.

You can ask the court to order the defendant not to contact and to stay away from any children you have, whether or not they are also the defendant’s children.

How do I ask the court for orders to protect my child?

When you file a Complaint for a 209A Restraining Order you can ask for orders to protect your child.

See a sample 209A Complaint that asks the judge to protect your child.

If you are asking for the defendant to stay away from or not have contact with your children, you need to show the judge why. Write the reasons your child needs protection on page 2 of the complaint where it says, “The specific reasons for this request are:…”

Learn more about:

What if my child needs a restraining order because they have been abused?

A parent can ask for a restraining order for their child who is under 18 years old, if the child is the person who has been abused. The process is the same as it is for adults. One difference is that the restraining order file is not public, and the judge might be more willing to hold the hearing privately when the person asking for the restraining order is a child.

The child is not required to come to court if their parent is asking for the restraining order on their behalf, but in some cases the judge may want to talk to the child.

If you are under 18 and want to ask for a restraining order for yourself, see Can I get a 209A Abuse Prevention Order if I am under 18?.

Which courts deal with 209A cases that involve children?

Your local District or Boston Municipal Court will deal with 209A cases that include children.

Your local Massachusetts courts are the 62 District Courts and the 8 Boston Municipal Courts (BMC). Find a court near you.

Sometimes, if you ask your local court for a 209A order that includes your child, the clerk or judge may tell you to go to Probate and Family Court. District Court and BMC judges and clerks should not send you to another court. You should expect your local court to deal with your 209A complaint for you and your child.

If you need to file a 209A complaint to protect you and your child, your local court should:

  1. Accept your complaint.
  2. Hear your case.
  3. Make a decision.

And they must not send you to the Probate and Family Court, because:

  • It is important to hear your case as soon as possible.
  • They want to make sure you are not discouraged from asking for help.
  • It may be even more dangerous if you cannot get to the other court.
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