There are many reasons to request a protective order. Whether you are facing abuse at home or someone is threatening you, you should not have to live in fear of another person. Knowing when and how to seek help is an essential step in preventing further harassment or abuse.
If someone is threatening you or your child’s safety, there are legal actions you can take. Our amazing team at O’Connor Family Law can help you if you are in a toxic relationship. With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, our team is prepared to handle any dangerous situation that you find yourself in.
When Should I Seek Protection?
While many circumstances could warrant filing an application for a protective order, one of the primary reasons to seek court-ordered protection is if someone is physically harming you or your children. Whether your abuser is an ex-spouse or a current partner, a protective order could prevent them from abusing, harassing, or threatening you by prohibiting contact and requiring them to move out if they live with you.
If your child’s other parent or another party jeopardizes your child’s safety, you may seek protection on their behalf. A court could order the abuser to move out of your home, stay away from your workplace or your children’s school, and surrender their guns to law enforcement.
Protective orders are often granted for a one-year period after a hearing, and if an abuser violates the order while it is active, they could face up to two and a half years in jail and monetary fines.
Someone who continuously degrades you, attempts to control your actions, or threatens to harm you, your children, or your family is psychologically abusing you. In these situations, you may have the same right to protect yourself from this type of abuse as you would if you were being physically assaulted. If your children witness domestic violence, drug use, or other criminal activity that may result in psychological harm or a dangerous environment, this could warrant the request of a protective order.
Harassment and Stalking
If you fear for your safety because someone is following you, watching your home, or waiting outside of your workplace, you may need a protective order. Harassment can include letters, texts, or emails from anyone you do not want to have contact with, including a former partner, co-worker, or even a stranger in some cases. Even if your abuser is not physically following you but instead monitors your social media in a threatening or intimidating way, you may be a victim of harassment and stalking. If this is occurring, you should also immediately report the behavior to your local police department.
Unwanted Sexual Relations
If someone forces you to partake in a sexual act or threatens to harm you if you do not engage in sex, you may have grounds for legal protection. In addition to filing criminal charges, you can request a protective order to keep them away from you and your family.
It can be very difficult to go in front of a Judge and explain the details of the abuse you have been subjected to, especially when it involves sexual behavior. There is also a common belief that if you are in a relationship with someone, or especially once married to them, your partner cannot rape you. However, this is not true. Rape and sexual harassment consist of an unwanted sexual advance or act regardless of your relationship status.
Types of Protective Orders
There are different types of protective orders that someone may request. All protective orders are intended to protect you from dangerous or potentially dangerous behavior, but what you qualify for often depends on your relationship with the abuser and the actions that person is taking against you.
Abuse Prevention Order
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A authorizes a court to issue an abuse prevention order, also known as a 209A order. You may seek protection if you and your abuser have one of the following relationships:
- Married or previously married to each other
- Residing in the same household
- Related by blood or marriage
- Have a child together
- Currently or previously engaged or dating
If a judge grants a 209A order, they can require your abuser to stop all contact with you and your children and immediately move out of any home the two of you were living together at, among other restrictions.
Harassment Prevention Order
M.G.L. Chapter 258E sets out the requirements for a harassment prevention order. If someone willfully and maliciously threatens or intimidates you or damages your property, you can request protection. You do not have to be married, related, or in a current relationship with the abuser to qualify for protection under Chapter 258E, but there are specific requirements about the number of harassing acts that must be met in order to qualify.
This type of protective order is only available to a spouse who is going through a divorce. This will require the other spouse to immediately move out of the marital home. Any future return after this order is granted will result in criminal charges being pressed against the spouse.
The person seeking the order needs to be able to show the Judge that there is a dangerous situation within the home that may not necessarily rise to the level of being able to obtain a restraining order but is dangerous nonetheless. Your spouse being a jerk in and of itself is not enough of a reason to obtain a vacate order, though. If you have questions about whether your situation may qualify as one where a vacate order could be appropriate, please feel free to contact our office and speak to our intake specialist about your family history.
How an Attorney Could Help Request a Protective Order
Protective orders are issued to prevent a person from harassing or harming you and your family. These orders can prohibit the abusive party from contacting you and require them to stay away from your home, workplace, and any other location where you and your children could be.
Unfortunately, an abuser might not stop their threatening or violent behavior until they are forced to, and the severity of the abuse can increase the longer it continues. If someone is hurting you or your children, or you fear for your children’s well-being, it may be in your best interest to consult an attorney. We can determine whether your reasons to request a protective order would likely be upheld legally and what options you may have to protect yourself and your children.