Massachusetts law about domestic violence (209A)

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on domestic violence law under Mass. General Laws c.209A.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Best bets

Abuse & harassment court orders, Mass. Trial Court.
Explains the difference between MGL c. 209A and MGL c. 258E as well as how to request an order under each law.

COVID-19 resources for Abuse Protection Orders (209A) and Harassment Prevention Orders (258E), Mass. Trial Court.
Resources and information for Abuse Protection Orders (MGL c. 209A) and Harassment Prevention Orders (MGL c. 258E) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Massachusetts law

Primary domestic violence law

MGL c.209A  Abuse prevention; see also:

Other laws related to domestic violence

MGL c.186, §§ 23-29 Housing rights for victims of domestic violence

MGL c.209C, § 15 Children born out of wedlock--domestic violence record search

MGL c.258E Harassment prevention orders

MGL c.265, § 43 Stalking; punishment

MGL c.277, § 62A Violations of chapter 209A; jurisdiction

MGL c.277, § 62B Stalking; jurisdiction

Massachusetts regulations

950 CMR 130 Address confidentiality program

Massachusetts guidelines

Domestic violence law enforcement guidelines, Mass. Executive Office of Public Safety, July 2017.
"These guidelines set forth appropriate and effective responses to domestic violence for police departments in Massachusetts."

Massachusetts Guide to Evidence, § 1106: Abuse prevention and harassment prevention proceedings, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court.
"In all civil proceedings under the Abuse Prevention Act, G. L. c. 209A, the rules of evidence should be applied flexibly by taking into consideration the personal and emotional nature of the issues involved, whether one or both of the parties is self-represented, and the need for fairness to all parties."

Guidelines for Judicial Practice: Abuse prevention proceedings, Mass. Trial Court, October 2021.
Caution: In V.M. v. R.B., 94 Mass. App. Ct. 522 (2018), the court states that these guidelines "erroneously suggest[] that establishing the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant is necessary to confer 'subject matter jurisdiction to issue an abuse prevention order under c. 209A.'"

Selected cases

Court forms

Organizations

DOVE
PO Box 690267
Quincy, MA 02269
617-471-1234 – 24 hour hotline

"DOVE, Inc. is committed to serving communities, families, and individuals impacted by domestic violence. We seek to empower our clients and the community by providing safety, shelter, education, and support services. By promoting an environment free from abuse, we strive to see - Domestic Violence Ended."

Jane Doe, Inc.
PO Box 960849
Boston, MA 02196
(617) 248-0922

Information and referrals for battered men and women. Also has a statewide online resource guide. Website lists a toll-free "Safelink" hotline that is available 24 hours per day: (877) 785-2020.

Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance
One Ashburton Place, Suite 1310
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 586-1340

Coordinates victim assistance programs on a statewide basis.

Web sources

Address Confidentiality Program, Safe Address (1-866-SAFE-ADD).
ACP provides a means by which domestic violence victims may use a confidential address in order to stay safe from actual or threatened violence.

Attorney General's Advisory concerning M.G.L. c. 149, § 52E employment leave for victims and family members of abuse, Mass. Attorney General, 2014.
Provides an explanation of the law granting leave for victims of domestic violence, with guidance for employers.

Domestic violence, Mass. Legal Help.
"The Domestic Violence section of MassLegalHelp has important information for victims and survivors of domestic violence about their rights concerning child support, housing, employment, immigration, making it on your own, criminal complaints, Chapter 209A Abuse Prevention Orders ("restraining orders"), custody and visitation, separation and divorce, paternity, the Department of Social Services, personal property, and doing a case in the Probate and Family Court."

Find out if you're eligible to request an abuse prevention order 
An excellent resource which details the differences between MGL c.209A and MGL c.258E.

HelpSteps.com, Mass. 2-1-1 Service.
"HelpSteps connects individuals to local health and human resources." Provides information about domestic violence resources, including hotlines and shelters.

Massachusetts prosecutors' manual: Domestic violence and sexual assault, Mass. District Attorneys Association, 2010.
This "training manual for the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases" provides detailed information on the prosecution of these offenses.

MDAA domestic violence trial notebook, 3d ed., Mass. District Attorneys Association, 2015.
"This trial notebook is to aid district court prosecutors in handling the many issues that arise in prosecuting domestic violence cases."

Need to take time off from work to deal with domestic violence?, Mass. Legal Help.
Explains who may take off and for what purposes under the 2014 domestic violence law.

Orders concerning domesticated animals in conjunction with restraining orders, Memo from Chief Justice of the Trial Court and Court Administrator, October 31, 2012.
Includes explanation of the law and procedures, with forms.

Safety and protection issues: Family law advocacy for low and moderate income litigants, 3d ed., 2018. Chapter 3. Mass. Legal Services.
"This chapter covers information about how the law can help you if you are a victim of domestic violence and what help is available for children who have been abused or neglected. This chapter contains basic information on how to obtain a restraining order (an order that aims to protect you from abuse and also known as an abuse prevention order); how to defend yourself against the same kind of order; an overview of Department of Social Services (DSS) child abuse investigations; and how all of this can affect a family law court case."

Where do we go from here: A self-help guide for domestic violence survivors and advocates, An AmeriCorps project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services, 2012.
Online book covers safety planning, finding shelter, child support, criminal complaints, 209A orders, custody, visitation, divorce, paternity, DSS, property and cases in probate and family court. Includes many sample forms.

Women's Law.org
Provides "plain-language legal info for victims of abuse".

Print sources

“Any liar can get an order by merely asserting fear”:  Why Chapter 209A must be revamped to protect against the issuance of unnecessary abuse protection orders. Brittany Pierce, 47 New Eng. L. Rev. 427 (No. 2, Winter 2012).

Domestic abuse in divorce & custody litigation, MCLE, 2012.

Family law and practice: with forms, 4th ed. (Mass Practice v.2A), Thomson Reuters, 2013 with supplement. Chapter 77 Pleadings, Orders and Appeals in Chapter 209A Abuse Prevention Cases.

Ins and outs of restraining orders, MCLE, 2022.

Massachusetts domestic relations, 5th ed., LexisNexis, loose-leaf, Chapter 22 (includes forms).

Obtaining, enforcing and defending c. 209A restraining orders in Massachusetts, 3rd ed., MCLE, loose-leaf.

Obtaining or fighting a restraining order, MCLE, 2021.

Contact for Massachusetts law about domestic violence (209A)

Last updated: February 6, 2024

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