Abuse Prevention (Protective) Orders
What is a 209A Prevention Order?
A 209A protective order is a court order to protect one person from being abused by another person.
Is that the same as a restraining order?
A 209A protective order is often referred to as a “restraining order.” You may also hear them called “Abuse Prevention orders,” or “209A’s.” That is because the statute that created this protection is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A, or “M.G.L. ch. 209A.” Many people prefer to use the broader term “protective order” rather than “restraining order,” because the order does more than just “restrain” your abuser; it protects you. In this manual we refer to these as 209A protective orders. You may also hear about “Domestic Relations Protective Orders.” These orders are given through a divorce and are similar to 209A protective orders.
How will a 209A Prevention Order help me?
You are the only one who knows what is best for the situation you are in right now. Some things that the court can order to help protect you include:
- Ordering the batterer to stop threatening or hurting you, or to “refrain” from or stop abusing you.
- Ordering the batterer not to contact you.
- Ordering the batterer to stay away (including a certain number of yards) from your home or apartment building, or other places you request, such as your work place, your school, day care, etc..
- If the batterer lives with you, ordering him to move out, or “vacate” the home.
- If you have moved to escape abuse and/or if the batterer does not know your address, “impounding” or protecting your address so the batterer does not find out where you are.
- Awarding you temporary custody of your children.
- Ordering temporary support, i.e. financial support, counseling etc., for you and your children.
- Ordering the batterer to stay away, not to contact, and to refrain from abusing your children.
- Ordering the batterer to pay you for any losses you suffered as a direct result of the abuse, such as lost wages, medical bills, broken locks, changing locks, personal property, etc..
- Ordering the batterer not to turn off any utilities which are in his/her name, or to turn them back on if he/she has already turned them off.
- Ordering the batterer to surrender his/her firearms identification card and any guns or weapons to the police.
- Ordering the batterer to return all keys to the house.
- Ordering the batterer to return a family car and the spare keys over to you.
- Ordering the batterer not to spend or dispose of money in a bank account.
- Ordering the batterer to pick up his/her personal belongings only with a police escort, or giving you a police escort if you need to pick up your things.
- Recommending that the batterer attend a certified batterer’s intervention program. Although this is more likely to happen in a criminal case than in the protective order hearing, it is possible.
- Other reasonable requests.
Where do I go for a Prevention Order?
If you are a Westford Resident, you can go to the Ayer District Court during normal business hours. You can also call or stop at the Police Department where you can receive assistance or direction. If it is outside of business hours and you are in need, an Emergency Restraining Order (ERO) can be obtained at the Police Department. Paperwork will be completed, the on call Judge will be contacted, and the ERO requested. The ERO is only good until the court opens (weekdays the next day, weekends/ holidays good until court opens). You then appear in front of the Judge and he/she will determine if it will be extended.
How quickly can I obtain a Prevention Order?
If you go to court, they can be obtained that same day. Emergency Restraining Orders, (ERO’s) take only an hour or two. With an ERO you are at the Police Station, unless there are extenuating circumstances (children in the home, injuries being treated at the hospital etc.), in which case other arrangements can be made.
Will these things really help?
They might, but they might not. Although a 209A protective order is no guarantee, it is important to remember that it does have the weight of the court system behind it. You know your batterer best, and know if he or she is likely to violate the order or not. If you have an order, and he/she does violate it, they could be arrested. Keep in mind that a 209A protective order should be just part of your safety plan.