Protecting your address and information in Restraining Order and Harassment Prevention Order cases

También en

Notas finales

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

209A Restraining Order and 258E Harassment Prevention Order cases are all about keeping you and your children safe. If you have a court case and are afraid to share information like your address and phone number, there are ways that you can ask to keep it confidential.

Are restraining order cases public?

In general, restraining order cases are public. The hearings take place in an open courtroom where anyone can watch. Judges should never hold 209A hearings in their offices. Members of the public can ask to see your restraining order file. 

Sometimes judges can decide to hold your hearing privately. They can have your hearing at their "bench". The bench is the judge's desk at the front of the courtroom. Judges can hold your hearing by the bench when there are sensitive issues like sexual assault or child abuse. 

Or, they can close the courtroom to the public. If you or the defendant need the judge to close the courtroom, you have to convince the judge you have a very good reason. You have to show that you or your family will be seriously harmed if the hearing is public. It is unusual for a judge to close the courtroom unless the restraining order is being requested on behalf of a child. The judge has to clearly explain the reasons they are closing the courtroom.

Are any parts of my restraining order file not public?

The Plaintiff Confidential Information Form is a form you always fill out in a 209A or a 258E case. On this form you give the court your:

  • name,
  • telephone number
  • home address,
  • workplace name and address, and
  • school and school address.

The court keeps this form separate from the rest of your file. The person who is abusing you, their lawyer, and the public are not allowed to see this form.

Only certain authorized people, like the police, the district attorney and court staff can see the form. You can write on the form if you want other people, like your lawyer or advocate, to be able to see this form.

Will my address show up on a restraining order?

If you ask the court to order the person who abused you to stay away from your school, work and home, these addresses will be on the restraining order. Anyone who can see the order will see these addresses, including the person who abused you. So, even though the Plaintiff Confidential Information Form can’t be given out to anyone, the addresses you put on it will be shared if you ask the court to order the defendant to stay away from them.

Can I keep my address completely secret?

There is a process called “impoundment” which keeps certain information completely private in your court case. Learn how to file a Motion for Impoundment and Affidavit in 209A and 258E cases to keep your address or phone number private from:

  • the person on the other side of your case,
  • the public, or
  • court staff who should not be allowed to see it.

If you need to use a completely different address to stay safe, see Address Confidentiality Program.

How do I file a Motion to Impound?

209A restraining order cases and 258E harassment prevention order cases have a special Motion to Impound form. You can use it to ask the court to protect your information and certain papers in your case from the defendant, the public, and court staff.

On this form, you must explain why you need the court to keep your information confidential. Your reasons to keep this information confidential must be more than simply to protect your privacy. You must show that you need the court to keep the information confidential so nobody can use it to harm you or your children.

Some reasons you may need to keep information confidential are:

  • To be safe. You will be in danger if someone else finds out where you live or work.
  • The information is too sensitive. The information in the file is too sensitive to be public. Sensitive information you may need to impound could be your medical or mental health history, or history of sexual abuse. Also, you may need to keep sensitive information about your child confidential. In some cases, you can have your entire file impounded.
  • You are staying in a domestic violence shelter. If you live in a domestic violence shelter, never reveal your physical address on public court forms.

Motion to Impound Form and Sample:

Motion for Impoundment and Affidavit in 209A and 258E cases [PDF]
Sample Motion for Impoundment and Affidavit in 209A and 258E cases [PDF]

You should also check Boxes 4(a), 4(b), and 4(c) on Page 1 of the 209A application. This will tell the judge that you want to keep your home, work, and school address completely off your restraining order. If the judge agrees, your restraining order will tell the defendant to stay away from your address “wherever that may be.”

If you need to use a completely different address to stay safe, see Address Confidentiality Program.

What if I don’t want anyone, even court staff, to see my Confidential Information Form?

You may need the police, court staff, or the District Attorney’s office to have no access to the information in this form because it wouldn’t be safe. For example, the person who abused you is a police officer or has a friend who works in the court. To protect the information on your Plaintiff Confidential Information Form, ask the court to “impound” it.

File a Motion for Impoundment and Affidavit in 209A and 258E cases and list the Plaintiff Confidential Information Form. Write on the Motion for Impoundment form that you do not want police or court personnel to see the form.

Are restraining order hearings recorded?

Courts should record all 209A hearings electronically. Find out how to get an audio recording. This is true even if the hearing is at the bench or in a closed courtroom.

How does the Address Confidentiality Program work?

The Address Confidentiality Program is a service for survivors of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, or stalking. It tells government agencies to keep your address secret. It sets up another mailing address for you. All of your mail should be sent to this address. You must use this address on any form that asks for your home, work, or school address. The Address Confidentiality Program staff will forward mail to your real address. This way nobody knows your real address except the Address Confidentiality Program and the Post Office.

To use this program, you must:

  • Live at a new address that the abusive person does not know and
  • Show that your life or your child's life will be in danger if the abusive person learns your address.

If you use this program, you must never tell the abusive person or any government agency what your real address is. If you want to apply for this program, your local domestic violence agency may be able to help you. You can also apply by calling them at 1-866-SAFE-ADD.

If you have a case in Probate and Family Court that is not a 209A restraining order or 258E harassment prevention order case, you can file another type of Motion to Impound. See Protecting your Address and Information in Probate and Family Court.

Resource Boxes
Más recursos
Who to call for help with domestic violence
DV - Who to call for help

Call 911 if you are in danger right now.

If you are not in immediate danger, you can contact:

See Jane Doe's list of Massachusetts domestic violence programs and court resources for safety and support.

Get help applying for a 209A
DV Help applying for 209A


¿Le resultó útil esta página?