Who Can You Protect Yourself from with a Restraining Order?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created September 2019

Who can you protect yourself from with a 209A restraining order?

Chapter 209A says that victims of domestic violence can get restraining orders against “family or household members” that have abused them.   You can only get a restraining order if the abusive person is a family or household member. 

What is a “family or household member”?

  • A person to whom you are or were married
  • A person you haven’t been married to but are or were related to by blood or marriage (for example, cousin, brother-in-law, brother)
  • A person with whom you have had a child, regardless of whether you have ever been married or lived together
  • A person you are not related to but currently are or formerly were members of the same household
  • A person you are or were in a dating or engagement relationship.

What does “related to each other by blood” mean?

A person is related to you by blood if you have a “family-like connection”.

In a very important decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), in the case of Turner v. Lewis (2001), decided that a paternal grandmother was “related by blood” to her grandchild’s mother.   The grandmother had custody of the child and the mother had visitation rights.  The court said that the paternal grandmother was “related by blood”, through her son, to the child, and that the child and her mother are “related by blood”.  The SJC concluded that the child is “related by blood” to both the grandmother and the mother, making the grandmother and the mother “related by blood” through the child.

The reason that the SJC decided that the relationship between the grandmother and the mother was a blood relationship was that the purpose of Chapter 209A is to prevent violence in family settings and to provide protection against violence perpetrated by someone with whom you have a “family-like connection”.

Who to call for help

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm