Who Can You Protect Yourself from with a Restraining Order?

Produced by Jeff Wolf, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Created July, 2007

Who can you protect yourself from with a 209A restraining

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 abuser 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


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

An abuser 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

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
9am and 4pm