Restraining Orders & 209A Violations

Attorney Sam Goldberg as seen on
boston.com

Failure to address a restraining order can often lead to significant legal and professional hardship in the future. The penalties for violating restraining orders can be devastating. They include jail time for up to 2½ years and fines as much as $5,000. If the violation is determined to have happened because the person who broke the order was reported for failing to pay child support, the penalty is a 60-day jail sentence and fines of $1,000-$10,000. As soon as the police are told that a restraining order may have been broken, the police must arrest the person breaking the order if there is probable cause. The following information can protect you from being blindsided with severe punishments and damage to your reputation.

What constitutes a violation of a restraining order?

It takes very little action/only minimal contact by the Defendant to violate a restraining order in Massachusetts. Once a restraining order is in place, any contact between the person who requested the order (The Plaintiff) and the person named in the order (the Defendent) is a violation. This includes direct contact such as seeing each other inadvertently, such as if the Defendent walks into a restaurant where the Plaintiff is eating, as well as indirect contact such as the Defendent calling, leaving voice mail, sending mail through the U.S. postal service, emailing, texting, instant messaging, or sending flowers (even anonymously) to the Plaintiff. Other breaches of the restraining order can occur if the Defendant disrupts the peace at the Plaintiff's place of employment even if the Plaintiff isn't there, and contacting the Plaintiff through a third person to send any kind of message.

Why are restraining orders taken out?

Often times a restraining order is taken out after a domestic dispute or altercation. Charges of domestic violence should never be taken lightly, for they can appear on the defendant's permanent record and, in turn, jeopardize his or her future.

How are restraining orders taken out?

A restraining order, also known as a Chapter 209(A), can be issued by a court with no evidence or real proof. It is based on little more than one person saying that they are afraid of another person, whether that person has done anything or not. Temporary or emergency orders can be issued without your even knowing that they are in place.

There is a great deal of controversy over the unrestricted use of 209(A)s, and with good reason. Unfortunately, 209(A)s are often used by disgruntled spouses where divorces have turned spiteful or by angry ex-spouses when child support or visitation is at issue. A 209(A) is used as a tactic to prevent involved parents from being a part of their child's lives. Vindictive former partners in relationships also abuse the Massachusetts restraining orders laws and have a restraining order placed on a person as a vindictive act and not because it is justified.

To learn more about restraining orders and 209A violations, see:

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