Abusers like to isolate their victims – closing off relationships with trusted friends and family who can offer another perspective or a place of shelter from abuse. Stay-at-home directives issued to flatten the curve of COVID-19 are giving some people cherished time at home with family, while it is trapping others with their abusers. As my colleague, Andrea Dunbar, recently wrote, Courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts remain available for those in need of protection from abuse. But which Courts are available and how can they be accessed by those suffering intimate partner abuse?
All District Courts, Probate and Family Courts, as well as the Boston Municipal Court have jurisdiction to enter 209A Abuse Prevention Orders.
- There are 61 District Courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You can find the District Court that serves your home address here.
- There are 18 Probate and Family Courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You can find the Probate and Family Court that serves your home address here.
- The Boston Municipal Court has 8 locations serving the City of Boston. You can find the BMC locations here.
To obtain an initial 209A Abuse Prevention Order, forms can be emailed to the appropriate Court with request for hearing. Alternatively, a call can be placed to the appropriate courthouse for instructions. All court buildings are closed to the public, except where an emergency warrants entry into the building, which is determined on a case by case basis. However, during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) courts are handing out forms at the door to those who cannot access the forms online. Applicants are being asked to take the forms to fill out and then return to the court building and place the forms into a bin outside of the building. A clerk will bring the forms inside to a Judge, who will either have a telephone hearing or allow individuals into the building, but only when absolutely necessary. If you are being abused, you can also dial 911 for immediate assistance. Police officers can facilitate obtaining a court order, even late at night and on weekends.
COVID-19 should not allow for the proliferation of domestic abuse. Attorneys at Burns & Levinson are available to help parties obtain orders for protection from abuse during the emergency closure of court buildings.
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