Massachusetts law about domestic violence (209A)

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on domestic violence law.

Best bet

Abuse and Harassment, Mass. Trial Court
Explains the difference between MGL ch.209A and ch. 258E as well as how to request an order under each law.

Massachusetts law

Primary domestic violence law 

  • MGL c. 209A  Abuse Prevention. See also:
  • MGL c.209A, s.11 Protection and custody of pets
  • St. 2014, c.260 Act Relative to Domestic Violence. Significant changes to domestic violence law, including education for judges and prosecutors, new law and penalties for suffocation and strangulation, and much more.

Other laws related to domestic violence

Massachusetts regulations

950 CMR 130  Address confidentiality program 

Massachusetts guidelines

Domestic Violence Law Enforcement Guidelines, Mass. Executive Office of Public Safety, January 2009
"These guidelines set forth appropriate and effective responses to domestic violence for police departments in Massachusetts."

Massachusetts Guide to Evidence, s.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, September 2011 (see additional resources below)

Additional Resources

Selected case law

Bosse v. Bosse, SJC Single Justice 91-493, 1991
"[W]here in-hand service is not reasonably possible, post-facto notice by mail to last known address and by publication is consistent with § 7...Mandating personal service where the defendant has, by disappearing, made personal service impossible would enable defendants, the perpetrators of abuse, to deny their victims the protection of our courts under G. L. c. 209A."

Champagne v. Champagne, 429 Mass. 324, 708 NE2d 100 (1999)
Court held that "Probate and Family Court has statutory authority to issue permanent protective orders in divorce proceedings and to incorporate them into final judgments of divorce nisi."

Commonwealth v. Collier, 427 Mass. 385, 693 NE2d 673 (1998)
"Where third party is involved in act that results in violation of protective order...Commonwealth is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt an intentional act by defendant which led to violation."

Commonwealth v. Gonsalves, 445 Mass. 1 (2005)
Most statements given to police investigating a crime may not be used at trial unless the witness can be cross-examined.

Commonwealth v. Housen, 83 Mass. App. Ct. 174 (2013)
Defendant who had permission by former girlfriend to enter her home was still required to leave when each of her children came home because the children had the right to individual protection under the 209A order, and so could be charged with multiple offenses stemming from the same activity.

Commonwealth v. Jacobsen, 419 Mass. 269 (1995)
A warrantless arrest for abuse may be made under M.G.L. Ch. 209A, Sect. 6(7) if there is reason to believe a person is in fear of serious imminent physical harm.

Commonwealth v. Shea, 467 Mass. 788 (2014)
"The question of which jurisdiction's law applies to a violation of a protection order appears to be one of first impression...we conclude that, where an out-of-State abuse protection order is allegedly violated in Massachusetts and prosecuted under c. 209A, the violation is governed by Massachusetts law and the jury should be instructed in accordance with Massachusetts law."

E.C.O. v. Compton, 464 Mass. 558 (2013)
Online dating counts. "Chapter 209A must be interpreted to protect all who are in a substantive dating relationship from abuse, regardless of whether the relationship was developed or conducted by the use of technology."

MacDonald v. Caruso, 467 Mass. 382 (2014)
To terminate an abuse protection order, "the significant change in circumstances must involve more than the mere passage of time, because a judge who issues a permanent order knows that time will pass. Compliance by the defendant with the order is also not sufficient alone to constitute a significant change in circumstances, because a judge who issues a permanent order is entitled to expect that the defendant will comply with the order."

Rauseo v. Rauseo, 50 Mass.App.Ct. 911 (2001) Court held that even the sending of flowers by defendant who was under abuse prevention order could be construed by wife as a hostile and threatening act in light of the existing order.

Szymkowski v. Szymkowski, 57 Mass.App.Ct. 284, 782 NE2d 1085 (2003)
"Court should not issue an M.G.L. Ch. 209A order simply because it seems to be a good idea or because it seems it will not cause the defendant any real inconvenience as a Ch. 209A order will infallibly cause inconvenience; in considering whether to issue a Ch. 209A order, the judge must focus on whether serious physical harm is imminent, and a generalized apprehension does not rise to the level of fear of imminent serious physical harm."


DOVE, Inc.
PO Box 311
Milton, MA 02186


PO Box 690267
Quincy, MA 02269
(888) 314-DOVE (3683)

"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.
14 Beacon St., Suite 507
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 248-0922 ext. 212

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, Room 1101
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 727-5200.

Coordinates victim assistance programs on a statewide basis

Web sources

Battered Women's Resources, Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence

Certified Batterer Intervention Programs in Massachusetts, Mass. Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Lists programs and contact information

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."

Mass. Lawmakers Compromise to Strengthen Domestic Violence Laws, WBUR, July 31, 2014.

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.

New 209A Guidelines and Forms, Mass. Legal Help
Explains the new guidelines and forms in simple English

Protective Orders from Another State, Mass. Legal Help.
Explains what to do to have an out-of-state protective order enforced in Massachusetts.

What is the Difference Between an Abuse Prevention Order and a Harassment Prevention Order?  
An excellent resources which details the differences between MGL c.209A and MGL c.258E

Where Do We Go From Here: A Self-Help Guide for Domestic Violence Survivors and Advocates, An AmeriCorps project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services, 2009.
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 "The Mission of is to provide easy-to-understand legal information and resources to women living with or escaping domestic violence or sexual assault."

Attorney General's Advisory Concerning M.G.L. c. 149, s. 52E Employment Leave for Victims and Family Members of Abuse, Mass. Attorney General, 2014. (see additional resources below)
Provides an explanation of the law granting leave for victims of domestic violence, with guidance for employers.

Consumer Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors in Massachusetts, National Consumer Law Center, 2011 (see additional resources below)
"The information in this packet is intended to help you: Separate your finances from your abuser; Deal with any existing debts; Stay financially independent in the future and avoid traps and scams; and Get more help and information with these issues."

Domestic Violence Trial Notebook, 3d ed., MDAA, 2015. (see additional resources below)
"This trial notebook is to aid district court prosecutors in handling the many issues that arise in prosecuting domestic violence cases."

Massachusetts Prosecutors' Manual: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Mass. District Attorneys Association, 2010.  (see additional resources below)
This "training manual for the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases" provides detailed information on the prosecution of these offenses.

Orders Concerning Domesticated Animals in Conjunction with Restraining Orders, Memo from Chief Justice of the Trial Court and Court Administrator, October 31, 2012  (see additional resources below)
Includes explanation of the law and procedures, with forms

Restraining Order Violators, Corrective Programming and Recidivism, Mass. Commissioner of Probation, 2004. (see additional resources below)
Statistical analysis of the effectiveness of certified batterer programs, anger management programs, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling in reducing domestic violence recidivism.

Safety Issues: Family Law Advocacy for Low and Moderate Income Litigants, 2d ed., 2008. Chapter 3. Mass. Legal Services. (see additional resources below)
"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."

Additional Resources

Last update: November 10, 2017


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