The recent case of C.R.S. v. J.M.S. addressed the issue of an ex parte abuse protective order. In that case, the victim of domestic violence filed a complaint for a restraining order against her partner. Her story entailed many instances of controlling behavior, along with some instances of physical violence.
As we explained in previous blog posts, one particular recourse for victims of domestic violence is to seek a protective order in court under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 209A. Restraining orders in general are ways for the court to compel a defendant to stop doing something. A protective order, sometimes also referred to as a restraining order, serves to protect a victim of domestic abuse. The perpetrator of the abuse is a member or former member of the victim’s household. It may also protect a victim from abuse or violence where the perpetrator is someone the victim is/was dating.
In addition, under Chapter 258E of the Massachusetts General Laws, any party may seek a protective order against another party based on harassment. Unlike a temporary order of protection from abuse, it is not necessary that domestic violence or abuse be present.
In the case at hand, the District Court issued an emergency protective order for the plaintiff. It issued the order ex parte. This means the Court issued it without the presence of the defendant. The injunction ordered the defendant to stay away from the plaintiff; it ordered him not to contact her; and it ordered him to vacate the plaintiff’s home.
Two days later, following the defendant’s arraignment for a criminal charge related to the domestic incident, a different judge held another hearing. Both the plaintiff and the defendant testified at the second hearing, and an attorney represented the defendant. The plaintiff described the abuse she endured from the defendant. This included a recount of the defendant pushing her into a wall and pushing her down on multiple occasions. The defendant denied the plaintiff’s allegations. After questioning the defendant, the judge extended the order of abuse protection for one year.
The defendant appealed the injunction, claiming that the protective order should not have been extended. He claimed his actions did not constitute “abuse” as defined by Massachusetts law. Additionally, he claimed that the plaintiff’s categorization of his actions as abusive was incorrect. He further stated that the plaintiff’s claims of fear due to the defendant’s actions were “unreasonable.”
The Appeals Court held that there was no error in issuing the injunction. The trial judge did not err; he could reasonably concur, based on circumstantial evidence, that the plaintiff had met her burden of proof.
“We are satisfied that the judge properly found that the plaintiff met her burden here,” the Court noted. “She testified to at least two separate incidents of physical assault (with one incident occurring at the time the ex parte order issued) in the course of a deteriorating and stressful relationship — a relationship that she testified had been characterized by the defendant’s controlling behavior as well as verbal and emotional abuse. At the time of the hearing, it appeared that the relationship was ending and the defendant was drinking heavily.”
The defendant also argued that the District Court wrongfully issued the original ex parte order; he claimed that he had entitlement to an opportunity to appeal that order. The Appeals Court disagreed. “Simply put, a defendant is entitled to be heard on the issue of whether an order pursuant to G. L. c. 209A should have issued, and a defendant has the right to appeal the issuance of an order against him or her. However, a defendant is not entitled to relitigate each stage of the proceedings,” the Court held. “Here, the defendant was given notice of the extension hearing, which was held two days after the ex parte order issued and, represented by counsel, he was given an opportunity to oppose the extension of the ex parte order. He is not entitled to further review of the ex parte order in this court.”
Are you looking for an experienced Newburyport or Andover divorce lawyer or family law attorney? Need assistance with a restraining order or have any questions about divorce or family law issues? You may schedule a free consultation with our experienced attorneys. Call 978-225-9030 during regular business hours or complete our online contact form. We will respond to your phone call or submission promptly.