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Massachusetts Law About Domestic Violence

Massachusetts Laws

Primary Domestic Violence Law

Other Laws Related to Domestic Violence

Massachusetts Regulations

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."

Guidelines for Judicial Practice: Abuse Prevention Proceedings, Mass. Trial Court, September 2011.

Massachusetts Guide to Evidence, s.1106: Abuse Prevention Act 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."

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 ยง 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."


Domestic Violence Court Forms

Guide to Completing GL c.209A Forms, Mass. Trial Court.

Petition and Order Issued Pursuant to GL c.209A, s.11 Relative to Domesticated Animals, October 2012. Scroll to last three pages for forms.

Other Web Sources

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

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.

Consumer Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors in Massachusetts, National Consumer Law Center, 2011. "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."

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.

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."

A Guide to How Probate and Family Courts Handle Cases Involving Domestic Violence, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center.

Jane Doe, Inc. Web site provides information and referrals for battered men and women; also has a statewide online resource guide . Web site lists a toll-free "Safelink" hotline that is available 24 hours per day: 877-785-2020.

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!

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

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.

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

Restraining Order Violators, Corrective Programming and Recidivism, Mass. Commissioner of Probation, 2004. 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. "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, 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."

Print Sources

"Every Breath You Take: Massachusetts Steps Up Its Efforts to Stop Stalkers," by J. Thomas Kirkman, 85 Massachusetts Law Review 174 (Spring 2001).

Massachusetts Domestic Relations, 4th ed., by John V. Harvey, Lexis, 2003 with supplement, Chapter 22 (Includes forms).

"New Unemployment Benefits Relief for Domestic Violence Victims," by Monica Halas and Pauline Quirion, 20 Massachusetts Family Law Journal 32 (August 2002).

"Nicholson v. Williams: Who is Failing to Protect Whom? Collaborating the Agendas of Child Welfare Agencies and Domestic Violence Services to Better Protect and Support Battered Mothers and Their Children," 38 New England Law Review 725 (Spring 2004). Also available online to library card holders through Hein Online.

Obtaining, Enforcing, & Defending c. 209A Restraining Orders in Mass., MCLE, 2012. See Appendix pages A291-A298 relative to domestic animals.

"The 'Other' Victims: Can We Hold Parents Liable for Failing to Protect Their Children from Harms of Domestic Violence?" 31 New England Journal on Criminal & Civil Confinement 271 (Winter 2005). Also available online to library card holders through Hein Online.


DOVE, Inc.
PO Box 311
Milton, MA 02186


PO Box 690267
Quincy, MA 02269
1-888-314-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

Web site provides information and referrals for battered men and women; also has a statewide online resource guide. Web site lists a toll-free "Safelink" hotline that is available 24 hours per day: 877-785-2020.

Mass. Office for Victim Assistance
One Ashburton Place, Room 1101
Boston, MA 02108.
(617) 727-5200.

Coordinates victim assistance programs on a statewide basis.