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Attorney Successfully Vacates 209A Restraining Order In Lawrence District Court

The plaintiff alleged in the application for a restraining order that she was afraid to be left alone in the residence that she shared with the defendant. The plaintiff claimed that she was afraid that the defendant was “unable to control” her temper. A temporary 209 A restraining order issued based on the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant verbally and emotionally abused the plaintiff. Following a hearing in which Our Attorney extensively cross examined the plaintiff, the District Court judge vacated the order holding that the plaintiff had not demonstrated that she was in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm.

If you have been served with a temporary restraining order in Massachusetts it is important that you know all of your rights. Although a restraining order is a civil order an alleged violation can result in the issuance of a criminal complaint. Thus, it is not always in one’s best interest to agree to the continuance of the order. M.G.L. Chapter 209A states that a person “suffering from abuse” by a “family or household member” may seek protection from such abuse by application to the court for an order requiring the defendant (among other measures) to refrain from abusing or contacting the victim. “Abuse” is defined by the statute as acts “(a) attempting to cause or causing physical harm; (b) placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm; or (c) causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress.” G.L.c. 209A, § 1, as amended through St. 1996, c. 450, 232. See Commonwealth v. Gordon, 407 Mass. 340, 344-345 (1990); Wooldridge v. Hickey, 45 Mass. App. Ct. 637 638-639 (1998). In deciding whether to issue such a c. 209A order, a judge must consider carefully whether serious physical harm is imminent. Smith v. Joyce, 421 Mass. 520, 523 n. 1 (1995). “Generalized apprehension, nervousness, feeling aggravated or hassled, i.e., psychological distress from vexing but nonphysical intercourse, when there is no threat of imminent serious physical harm, does not rise to the level of fear of imminent serious physical harm.” Wooldridge v. Hickey, 45 Mass. App. Ct. 637, 639 (1998), citing Larkin v. Ayer Div. of the Dist. Ct. Dept., 425 Mass. 1020 (1997). The Court also reads the Legislature’s language in § 1 (“attempting,” “placing,” and “causing”) as revealing an intent to limit the definition of abuse to the present tense. See United States v. Wilson, 503 U.S. 329, 333 (1992) (“Congress’ use of a verb tense is significant in construing statutes”). Language in § 3 also suggests that c. 209A was designed to allow persons presently “suffering” from abuse to seek relief. Therefore, the Court concluded that G.L.c. 209A, § 1(b), focuses on preventing imminent serious physical harm, not merely responding to past abuse. Dollan v. Dollan, 55 Mass. App. Ct. 905 (2002). If you oppose the continuance of the restraining order having an experienced Massachusetts domestic violence lawyer on your side who knows the legal standards is important.


Our Attorney has been practicing criminal law for over twenty years. She routinely appears in courthouses in Peabody and Lawrence and represents defendants opposing the continuance of restraining orders and in cases of domestic violence. Our Attorney has been successful in preventing the extension of baseless restraining orders. If you need a qualified attorney to present your side of the case contact Our Attorneyor .