What Is the Difference Between a No Contact Order and a Restraining Order in Massachusetts?

Man in orange jumpsuit and handcuffs standing in front of Massachusetts judge.

In Massachusetts, a restraining order, often referred to as a “209A Order,” is a court order aimed at preventing domestic violence by restricting an abuser’s actions towards the victim, which may include no contact provisions, staying away from the victim’s home/work, and surrendering firearms. A no-contact order specifically prohibits an individual from contacting another person and can be a condition of a restraining order, bail, probation, or part of another legal proceeding. While both can mandate no contact, a restraining order is broader, providing more extensive protections and conditions beyond just prohibiting contact.

Understanding the Basics

Protective Order vs. No-Contact Order

A protective order, commonly known as a restraining order, is issued by a court to protect a person from harm or harassment. In contrast, a no-contact order specifically regulates communication between individuals, often prohibiting contact through phone calls or text messages.

Types of Protective Orders

There are several types of protective orders, from emergency orders that provide immediate protection to permanent orders designed for long-term safety. Whether it’s a temporary restraining order to address immediate danger or a permanent restraining order for ongoing safety, the court tailors each order to the specifics of the case.

Court Procedures and
Legal Action

Jurisdiction and Court Hearings

The District Court, Probate and Family Court, Superior Court or Boston Municipal Court may handle protective order cases, depending on the relationship between the parties and the nature of the case. Criminal charges are usually addressed in District or Superior Court. Family-related issues such as child support or custody may be heard in Probate and Family.

The Role of Law Enforcement

When a protective order is violated, it’s a good idea to report the incident to the local police department immediately. Law enforcement officers can enforce the terms of the order and, if necessary, arrest the alleged abuser, which could lead to jail time and a criminal record.

Specifics of the Legal Process

Applying for an Order of Protection

The first step in applying for an order of protection involves filing a petition at the clerk’s office. This process can sometimes be done ex parte, meaning without the other party present, especially if there’s an immediate danger.

If that Temporary Order is granted, you’ll be given another date to come back for a two-party hearing. The police department will serve the Temporary Order on your abuser and they will be notified of the next court date as well. On that day, you will both have the opportunity to address the court on the issues.

The Importance of Affordable Legal Representation

While some individuals navigate this process alone, it’s often helpful to have a criminal defense attorney or a victim advocate by your side. They can help present your side of the story and ensure all sensitive information is accurately conveyed to the court.

At Afford Law, we don’t want money to get in the way of your safety. We use a sliding scale when setting our fees. The less you earn, the less you pay. Our mission is to provide experienced legal help you can afford.

Understanding the Impact
on Relationships

Family and Intimate Relationships

Protective orders often involve parties in an intimate relationship, such as:

  • spouses,
  • former spouses,
  • intimate partners, or
  • family members.

In cases involving children, they can address issues like temporary custody of a minor child or even child support.

Criminal Cases and Alleged Victims

In criminal cases, a no-contact order can protect an alleged victim from further harm. This is especially crucial in cases of sexual assault or abuse, where the victim may be in fear of imminent serious physical harm.

After the Court Order:
Terms and Compliance

Living with a Court Order

It’s essential to understand the terms of the order thoroughly. Violation of the order can lead to serious consequences, including hefty fines and additional criminal charges.

Modifications and Extensions

If circumstances change, parties can request the court to modify the terms or extend the duration of the order. To modify an order, one party must file a Motion to Modify with the Court. The Court will schedule a hearing and the other party has to be notified. Even if the modification is agreed to by both parties, the Court must approve it in order for it to be official.

At the end of the time frame for the order, the petitioner can ask to have it extended. If this is your case, you must go to court on the day that’s indicated on the order. You will then go before the judge and ask that the order be extended. If you don’t show up on that day, the order will expire at the end of the business day.

The Importance of Compliance and Reporting

Following the Order

Compliance with a protective order is not just a recommendation—it’s a legal requirement. Understanding the nuances, from no contact to restrictions on sexual relations with a specific person, is essential for both the protected party and the restrained party.

Reporting Violations

In cases of violation, such as an unpermitted phone call or text message, immediate reporting to the police is crucial. Violations are serious offenses that can lead to criminal charges and impact criminal records.

Final Thoughts:
Empowerment Through Knowledge

Protective orders serve as a shield, offering peace of mind and security to those who fear for their safety. Knowing the differences, how to obtain one, and what it entails can empower you to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Remember, whether you’re seeking a temporary restraining order or need to understand the implications of a permanent order, informed decisions are critical.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and receive tailored guidance.

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