For a plaintiff to obtain an abuse prevention order, colloquially known as a "restraining order," against a defendant, the issuing court must make a finding of abuse. For the purposes of 209A, abuse is defined as 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. In cases where no attempted or actual physical contact has occurred, the question is generally whether the defendant placed the plaintiff in fear of imminent serious physical harm. Past cases have established that such fear must be reasonable in light of the totality of the circumstances of the parties' relationship.
In a recent case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court explored the issue of preclusion - once a person has gotten divorced, can his or her ex-spouse sue them for related conduct? The answer is yes, but not always. The Appeals Court explored both sides of res judicata - claim preclusion and issue preclusion, in reaching its determination.
In a recent case, E.C.O. vs. Gregory James Compton (SJC-11259, March 13, 2013), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned a District Court Judge's extension of a G.L. c. 209A Abuse Prevention Order in favor of a 16-year-old girl whose father obtained a restraining order against a 24-year-old man, with whom the daughter was involved while she was traveling abroad. In doing so, the court shed some more light on legal standards in obtaining abuse prevention orders in general.
Signed into law on August 2, 2012 and effective October 31, 2012, Massachusetts now has new legislation applicable to the care and custody of domesticated animals (i.e., the family pet) in connection with abuse prevention/harassment orders, a/k/a restraining orders, issued under M.G.L. c. 209A.