Worcester Restraining Order Lawyers
Helping Residents of Hanover & Westborough Legally Protect Themselves & Their Families
Protective orders are issued to help keep someone safe if there has been physical or sexual abuse or a threat of abuse.
There are three types of protective orders:
- Restraining Orders
- Harassment Protection Orders
- Vacate Orders
Our Worcester restraining order lawyers can help you petition for one of the above forms of protection if you are subject to threats or harm in a domestic violence situation.
Because our firm practices in family law all the time, we also often see how often restraining orders are obtained simply because someone has filed a divorce or custody case. Our incredible aggressive restraining order defense attorneys also can help you if you have been served with a protective order and need assistance fighting the action against you.
With over 35 combined years of exclusive family lawyer experience, our caring and dedicated family attorneys understand the sensitivity and emotional impact of these situations. Our team of legal professionals can evaluate the details of your case and provide compassionate advice and guidance regarding how to proceed.
Potential Provisions in a Restraining Order in Massachusetts
A restraining order can be sought any time someone doesn’t feel safe from a person they have some sort of relationship with. If you need a restraining order when the courthouse is not open, you can obtain one through your local police department. If you find yourself needing a restraining order while the court is open, you can obtain one at either District or Probate and Family Court.
To obtain a restraining order, there are a number of things the Judge will have to be able to determine:
- There is some sort of relationship between you and the person you need the restraining order against. This could be a marriage, that the two of you live together (roommates count). You could be in a substantive dating or engagement relationship. Or they are a family member of yours, whether by blood or marriage.
- You must have been suffering some form of abuse. This could be you’re your abuser harmed you or attempted to harm you physically. It could be that your abuser put you in fear of imminent serious physical harm. Or it could be that your abuser caused you to engage in sexual relations involuntarily using force, threats, or duress.
- You must live within the jurisdiction of the Court or that you used to live within the jurisdiction of the Court, but you left to avoid further abuse.
If there is a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse, a Restraining Order can be issued without notice to the other person on an emergency basis either through the court or through your local police station. If you obtain an emergency Restraining Order at a police station during hours the courthouse is not open, you will need to go to court the next business day to submit an additional application at the courthouse. The Defendant will be served with the temporary order you obtained at the police station and has the right to appear and argue why the Restraining Order should not be granted at the hearing on the next business day.
If you obtain the initial Restraining Order through court while it is open, then a return hearing will generally be scheduled within ten days where the Defendant will be able to attend the hearing and argue why the Restraining Order shouldn’t be extended. At the initial hearing where the Defendant can also be heard by the court, a Judge will listen to both sides and then make a decision on whether to deny and terminate or approve and extend the order.
If granted, the provisions of a restraining order may vary depending on the nature of the alleged abuse. In some situations, the order may oblige the Defendant to abstain from any form of contact with the Plaintiff, to stay a specific distance away from the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff’s home address, or the Plaintiff’s work. There will usually be an instruction to turn in any guns or weapons to the local police station. It can also include the right of the Defendant to obtain some of his or her personal belongings out of the home with the assistance of a police officer.
If you have children together, the Restraining Order can also include the children on it by giving the Plaintiff sole legal and physical custody and even instructing the Defendant not to have any contact with the children at all. Our experienced attorneys in Worcester can review a domestic violence situation and identify which provisions may be included in a restraining order. We can help you obtain one if you need protection. We can also help you defend against one that was obtained to get an upper-hand in a divorce or custody matter.
What are the Different Kinds of Protective Orders in Worcester?
There are various kinds of protective orders that our attorneys can help someone pursue or fight based on the facts of their case.
Frequently, our team handles:
- Abuse Prevention Orders (also called Restraining Orders or 209A Orders), which the court grants to individuals who have experienced physical or sexual abuse or the threat of physical or sexual abuse from a romantic partner, family member, roommate, or spouse. Restraining Orders can be obtained through either District or Family Court. If there are already custody orders in place, the hearing on the Restraining Order will usually take place at Family Court though.
- Harassment Prevention Order (or a 258E Order). These types of orders are only available to be obtained through District Court. This type of protective order is not limited to specific types of relationships between the Plaintiff and Defendant. A Judge will generally issue these orders in situations where the petitioner might not qualify for an abuse prevention order but has endured at least three individual instances of harassing behavior that is done with an intent to harm or threaten the Plaintiff.
- Vacate Order. This type of order is only available when there is a divorce pending. While people are divorcing, there is no legal requirement that one person must leave the marital home to go live somewhere else. However, if one spouse is acting in a dangerous or unsafe manner that is harming either the other spouse or the children, that spouse can be ordered out of the home.
When things are bad, most often one person will offer to leave the home and the Parties will enter into a stipulation that provides one of the spouses with “sole use and occupancy of the marital residence.” This means that the spouse no longer living in the home cannot just come by or come into the marital home whenever he or she wants. The difference between that and a Vacate Order is that, if the spouse who is no longer living in the home goes to the home, that spouse can face criminal charges for violating the Vacate Order.
Wrongfully Obtained Protective Orders
Restraining orders can be instrumental in helping a person find protection in cases of genuine harassment, domestic violence, or spousal abuse. Unfortunately, they are often wrongly obtained to help one side gain the upper hand in a pending divorce or custody case over the kids or the property. As a protective court order, these orders can have serious ramifications against the person whom the order is sought — both in a legal and personal sense. Once obtained, even just an allegation of a violation of the order can cause the Defendant to face criminal charges and potentially end up in jail. Having a Restraining Order against a person can cause some people to lose their job, prevent them from volunteering at any of their children’s school-related functions, or put them in serious predicaments that restrict their ability to resume normal life.
Because of that, if the person who obtains the protective order is significantly exaggerating a situation or outright lying about it, it’s incredibly important to fight the extension at a hearing. Because obtaining a Restraining Order often gives one parent immediate legal and physical custody and, oftentimes, makes the Defendant parent unable to see or have contact with the children for at least ten days, it’s important to start taking action to enable your best defense to be put forth at the extension hearing.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself Against a Restraining Order?
- Don’t physically harm or threaten to physically harm anyone. But it is not unusual for there to be arguments and disagreements when a relationship is heading south. If your partner has ever threatened to obtain a restraining order against you, that should send up red flags immediately! If there is ever a threat of a person obtaining a restraining order, first, examine your behavior to see if you are perhaps coming across more aggressively than you think you are.
- Take a step back immediately. It is more important to not have a restraining order against you than it is for you to be “right” during an argument. It’s easy to let emotions get the best of you and not want to be seen as being “wrong” or “weak” because you do not continue to argue, especially if you’re arguing with someone who sees your refusal to continue to argue equate to that person “winning” or “being right.” The argument you’re having, no matter how important to you, is not worth you being forced to leave your house within a ten minute period, not be able to see your children for a minimum of ten days, or incur the expenses associated with having to defend yourself against a restraining order.
- Consider leaving the home for a little while to allow things to cool down. Oftentimes, if you go to leave, the person threatening you with the restraining order will also threaten that they’ll file abandonment charges against you if you leave the home. If you hear this threat, don’t worry – you will not be charged with abandonment for only leaving the home long enough to let things cool down. If you are threatened with this, stop by the police station when you leave the home and let the police know what is going on – that you had a verbal argument, that your partner threatened to obtain a restraining order against you, and that, when you went to leave the home to allow your partner to cool down, you were threatened with criminal charges for abandonment. This way, if your partner does choose to move forward and retaliate against you for not doing what he or she says, you have a record.
- Immediately contact an attorney who can help you come up with a plan to protect yourself and gather evidence in case your partner moves forward with his or her threats.
- If you are home and you know, or have a hunch, that your partner went out and obtained a restraining order against you, be prepared. Pack yourself a bag with the personal items you would need for up to thirty days. This includes medication, clothing, personal care items, documentation, or other work-related items that you might really need before you get a chance to get back into the home.
If someone has been served with a restraining order, it’s crucial to start preparing a legal defense immediately. Our attorneys in Westborough successfully defended attempts for protective orders to be obtained by controlling or manipulative partners. We can devise the best approach that protects an individual’s legal rights and builds a defense against false allegations.
Hire Our Worcester Restraining Order Attorneys
Our restraining order lawyers at O’Connor Family Law know the specific subtleties involved in these types of cases, and we can fight vigilantly to secure your safety and legal rights. Whether you are facing physical abuse or threats or you are on the receiving ends of threats of having a restraining order issued against you, it is critical to hire a lawyer who has extensive experience with situations involving potential domestic violence. We can work tirelessly to help you acquire a protective order or build a defense if you believe it was wrongfully obtained.
My representation was far more superior than my ex-husbands.- Vicki
Thank you, Heather!- Jim
Attorney O’Connor is a professional and compassionate attorney.- James
I would definitely recommend her.- Raymond
Heather is brilliant.- Former Client