According to the applicable statute, domestic abuse is defined in Massachusetts to include three different types of actions. [1]

First, attempting to cause or causing physical harm constitutes domestic abuse. Actions such as punching, hitting, or kicking another family or household member may be examples of this part of the definition.

Second, placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm also constitutes domestic abuse. Threatening to hurt another family or household member is an example of this part of the definition.

Third, causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress also constitutes domestic abuse.

Who does the statute cover?

The Massachusetts domestic abuse statute applies to family or household members. The definition of “family and household members” is fairly broad. The statute defines it as persons who:

“(a) are or were married to one another;
(b) are or were residing together in the same household;
(c) are or were related by blood or marriage;
(d) have a child in common regardless or whether they have ever married or lived together; or
(e) are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship, which shall be adjudged by district, probate or Boston municipal courts in consideration of the following factors: (1) the length of time of the relationship; (2) the type of relationship; (3) the frequency of interaction between the parties; and (4) if the relationship has been terminated by either person, the length of time elapsed since the termination of the relationship.” [2]

What Remedies are Available?

Under the statute, there are many different remedies that a judge may order once a victim of domestic violence files a complaint against the abuser in the appropriate court. For example the court may:

  • Issue a restraining order against abusing and/or contacting the victim;
  • Compel the defendant to leave the household;
  • Grant temporary custody of minor children to the plaintiff, and may also order payment of child support or spousal support by the defendant;
  • Order the defendant to pay the victim monetary compensation for the losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse;
  • Order the defendant to attend a recognized batterers’ training program.
Need More Information About Domestic Violence?

Take a look at our Protective Orders FAQ page if you want more info. Also, the MA Courts’ web page on domestic abuse has many helpful resources. If you need further help or are looking for a Newburyport or Andover divorce lawyer, call our offices to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.

1 Mass. Gen. Laws c. 209A, s. 1.
2 Id., definitions.