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If you need help requesting an abuse prevention order, the Mass. Office of Victim Assistance offers a program called SAFEPLAN that provides people to help you in many courts across the state.
There are other programs in some courts that provide people who can help you fill out the forms and go with you to the courtroom. In some cases the advocate is from the local domestic violence service provider. In other cases, District Attorney Office victim-witness advocates assist people in filing for a 209A order. A list of domestic violence service providers can be found at Jane Doe, Inc. People at these organizations can tell you if they have court advocates or, if not, how to reach a court advocate.
If you need help immediately such as safety planning or shelter, call the SAFELINK hotline at 1-877-785-2020, which can find you a domestic violence program or shelter near you.
You will need to appear in person to the proper court location or police station (if court is closed) to obtain the necessary paperwork for filing.
You will always file:
You may also need:
If you have children:
If you want custody of your pets, or an order to keep the defendant from abusing your pets:
There is no charge to get an abuse prevention order
During regular business hours on weekdays, you can go to the Boston Municipal, District, Probate and Family or Superior Court whose jurisdiction covers where you live. See Court Locator . If you are unsure what court covers where you live, you can call the closest court on the list and they will be able to direct you to the right place.
If you have left home since the abuse, you can choose to go to a court whose jurisdiction covers where you are staying. Go to the civil clerk’s office and tell them you want to ask for a 209A order. They will give you the forms you need.
If you are in crisis and courts are closed, you can call or go to your local police station. The police will give you the forms to fill out and then call a judge. If the judge grants the order, it is only temporary until the next court business day. The order given to you by the police will tell you which court and when you need to be at the court.
After you fill out the forms, give them back to the clerk’s office to file. Court staff will check to see if the defendant is wanted by the police, if there are or have been other restraining orders against the defendant, and/or whether the defendant has any criminal record. In some courts, court staff may also check your record. Once this is done, you will be brought into the courtroom to appear before a judge.
If you have asked for an order without the defendant knowing, the defendant will not be there. The judge will look over your papers and ask you some questions. The judge will decide whether or not to give you the order while you are still there. You will be given a copy of the order by the Clerk’s office after the hearing is over.
The police will attempt to serve the defendant with a copy of the order. Your local police department receives a copy of the order. You should also keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
The date and time for the next court hearing will be listed on the order. The name and location of the court that issued the order is listed at the top right hand corner of the order. During that hearing, the judge will listen to the evidence and decide if the order should continue to remain in effect, be amended in some way(s), or be terminated (ended). Both the plaintiff and the defendant have a right to be heard at the hearing and to present evidence that the judge finds is relevant. If you do not appear at the next scheduled court hearing, the order will expire at the end of that court day.
If the judge grants the order, it will be in effect for up to one year. The order will say how long it will last, and will tell you when you need to go back to court if you want to renew it.
If you want to renew the order, you will need to go back to court on the return/expiration date on the order, and ask for the order to be renewed or the order will expire.
If you are not given an order or not given everything you request you may appeal. You have 30 days to appeal after the judge makes his or her decision. No matter what court issued the order, you must appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. To start your appeal, you must file a Notice of Appeal at the Clerk’s office of the court that issued the order within thirty days of your hearing. See the Appeals Court Help Center for information on the appeals process.