Usually the first time you find out that an abuse prevention order has been taken out against you is when the police find you and give you a copy. It is important that you read the order VERY carefully. An abuse prevention order is a civil case, but if you do anything that the order tells you not to, that is called violating the order, and violating the order is a crime. Make sure you know what the order says.

What does an abuse prevention order do?

An abuse prevention order is a court order.  That means that only a judge can change the order. The person who requested the order CANNOT change or end the order without returning to court. Even if the plaintiff seems to request or allow conduct forbidden by the order, you will be in violation of the abuse prevention order unless a judge has changed it.

If you are ordered not to abuse the plaintiff, this means that:

  1. You shall not physically assault or threaten the plaintiff.
  2. You shall not do anything that gives the plaintiff reason to fear that you might cause the plaintiff physical harm.
  3. You shall not use force or a threat of any kind to make the plaintiff have sex unwillingly.  

If you are ordered to have no contact with the plaintiff, this means that:

  1. You shall not live with the plaintiff.
  2. You must stay a specific number of feet/yards away from the plaintiff.  The distance you must remain away is listed on the order.
  3. You shall not contact the plaintiff in any way.  This includes, but is not limited to, phone calls, text messages, emails, gifts and contact through friends, relatives, neighbors or anyone else, sending or posting messages on facebook, twitter or any other social media site, unless specifically allowed in the order. 
  4. If you are already at a place and the plaintiff comes to that same location, you must leave that place as quickly as possible.

If you are ordered to leave a residence (home), this means that:

  1. You must leave the residence immediately and stay away from that residence while the order is in effect.  You must stay away from the residence even if the plaintiff is not there at the time.  If the residence is an apartment, you may be ordered to remain away from the entire building, even if the lease is in your name.
  2. You shall not damage the residence in any way.
  3. You shall not shut off any utilities or interrupt mail delivery to the plaintiff.

If you are ordered to stay away from the plaintiff’s work, this means:  

  1. You must stay away from the place where the plaintiff works as long as the order is in effect.  You must stay away from that workplace even if the plaintiff is not there at the time.

If the plaintiff has been given custody of children, this means:

  1. The children will live with the plaintiff unless or until a judge changes that order.

If you are ordered to have no contact with the children, this means that:

  1. You must stay a specific number of feet/yards away from them (the distance is listed on the order) and have no contact with them while the order is in effect unless and until a judge permits contact with the children.  
  2. The order may include that you stay a specific number of feet/yards away from a child’s school or daycare.
  3. If you are permitted to have contact with the children but not with the plaintiff and the children live with the plaintiff you must be careful to speak only to the children, following exactly what contact the order permits (for example, phone or email contact or visitation) and not to speak with or have any contact with the plaintiff.
  4. The Probate Court can change a District Court Judge’s abuse prevention order with regard to custody and contact with children.  Even if the Probate Court does change the parts of the order that deal with the children, all other parts of the District Court order remain in effect.

If you are ordered to pay certain money, this means:

  1. You can be ordered to pay temporary support if you are legally obligated to do so (for example, if you are married),
  2. You can be ordered to pay child support for your children, or
  3. You can be ordered to pay for costs related to the abuse such as medical bills, lost wages or money for changing the locks.

If you are ordered to surrender (give up) firearms, this means:

  1. You must immediately transfer possession of any firearms, ammunition, license to carry firearms or a firearms identification card that you have to the police department listed on the order.
  2. You may not purchase any firearms or ammunition while the order is in effect.

How do I get my things?

If you have been ordered to stay away from your home, the order may permit you to, in the company of the local police, pick up your personal belongings at a time agreed to by the plaintiff.   Contact the local police so that they can arrange a time to go with you to the house so that you can get your clothes and other things you may need.