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Seeking protective orders in a Massachusetts divorce

It is an unfortunate fact that some spouses seek a divorce due to acts of domestic violence against them. Whether the spousal abuse happened only once or is part of an ongoing pattern of violent behavior, the abused spouse may need to turn to the Massachusetts courts for assistance.

If you have been a victim of domestic violence and are in the midst of a divorce, it is important to share this with your divorce attorney. He or she can obtain a Domestic Relations Protective Order, also known as a restraining order, from a judge to protect you from incidents of further abuse.

These orders are similar to a 209A protective order, but are issued by the Probate and Family Court in child support, divorce and paternity cases. Like 209As, they are civil orders and do not result in the alleged abuser being arrested and prosecuted in criminal court. However, if you are under the protection of such an order and are abused again by your spouse, he or she can be arrested for violating the order.

In some cases, criminal charges may already be filed against an abusive spouse when a protective order is issued. While both may stem from the same incident, they are handled in separate courts with distinctly different consequences. It is not necessary to file criminal charges against an abuser in order to get a protective order, although it may be an option.

When you are involved in a particularly acrimonious divorce from someone with a past history of spousal violence or who has threatened violence in the past, it is vital to convey that to your divorce attorney in order to keep yourself as safe as possible.

Source: masslegalhelp.org, "209A Protective Orders" accessed Feb. 27, 2015

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