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How Can a 209A Protective Order Help Me?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed April 2021

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Who can I get a 209A restraining order against?

You can ask for a 209A restraining order against a person if:

  • you are married to the person;
  • you used to be married to the person;
  • you are dating the person;
  • you used to date the person;
  • you have a child with the person;
  • you live in the same home as the person;
  • or you used to live in the same home; or
  • you are related by blood or marriage to that person (for example, a cousin, brother-in-law, brother).

If you need protection from someone who is in your “family” but who is not on this list, you might still be able to get a 209A restraining order. You may also be able to file a criminal complaint against the person. See Criminal Complaints.

Can I get a 209A restraining order if my partner did not hit me?

You can get a 209A restraining order against any person on the list above who has:

  • hurt you physically;
  • tried to hurt you physically;
  • made you scared of getting physically hurt; or
  • forced you to have sex or sexual contact, or made you have sex or sexual contact by threatening you or making you feel that you have no choice.

What does a 209A restraining order do?

A 209A restraining order is a court order that says a person must not do certain things. If the person does these things anyway, they are “violating” the order. It is a crime to violate a 209A restraining order and the police can arrest them. A 209A restraining order can also order the abusive person to do things like pay utility bills or child support.

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 day care. 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 he lives with you;
  • keep your addresses off court forms so the person does not 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 his 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 which are in their name, or order them to turn them back on if they have has 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 his things;
  • send the person to a certified batterer's intervention program.


    Probate and Family Court judge can order them to go to a program before they visit your child.
    A District Court judge can only recommend that they go to a program as part of a 209A protective order. If someone violates the 209A order, the District Court can then order them to go to a certified batterers program.

  • 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 Abuse Prevention Order page 1 and page 2.

Will a 209A restraining order help me stay safe?

If you get a 209A restraining order, it might help you stay safe. But it might not. Sometimes, trying to get a 209A protective order can make things worse.

A 209A restraining order is an official order from a court. It tells the other person that you are serious about stopping the abuse. It also lets the police arrest the other person for doing things that are against the order.


You have an order that says the person must stay at least 100 yards away from your house. If that person walks up to your front door and rings the doorbell, you can call the police and ask them to arrest them.

But a 209A restraining order is not a bullet proof vest. It is a piece of paper. It might scare the other person into staying away from you. If you have a 209A order the police can do more to help you. But the order might not be enough to stop the other person from hurting you. Sometimes a court order makes an abusive person angrier and more likely to hurt you.

You know the person who is abusing you. You know if they are someone who will respect an order from a court. You know if they are someone who won't care if there is a court order and will do whatever they want anyway. You also know if getting an order from a court is likely to make that person mad enough to want to hurt you more.

If you do get a 209A restraining order, it should only be one part of your personal safety plan. You should make a full safety plan that says what you will do to escape or to protect yourself if the other person abuses you even though you have an order. You can get help with making a safety plan. Most domestic violence advocacy programs have counselors who can talk to you and help you make a plan. Call Safelink to find a program near you.

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