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Attorney Gregory P. Lee
Domestic violence is never acceptable.  Hitting, pushing, slapping, and threatening are unacceptable, as is anything more violent.  Neither men nor women are allowed to abuse family and household members.  Even threats made from a distance — over the phone or other media — are taken seriously.  The courts strictly enforce the laws.  If you need help, seek it.  If you are accused of domestic violence, do not shrug it off — many rights are tied in to a finding that you have committed domestic violence.

All family members have an absolute right to be free of violence or threat of violence, as well as unwanted sex. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 209A declares that “attempting to cause or causing physical harm,”  “placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm,” or “causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat or duress,” are all “abuse” when they come from “family or household members.”   All these forms of abuse are illegal.

Family and household members are 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) having a child in common regardless of  whether they have ever married or lived together;  or (e) are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship. . . .” Where “dating” relationships are concerned, a judge will almost always find a sufficient relationship exists, especially if there was a threat.  The rule of thumb: expect that “one date is enough.”

If you are abused by a family or household member, seek help from the police and courts whether or not you can contact an attorney.  The police will help you seek a restraining order against an abuser at any time of the day or night.  Any Court can issue an order during the day.  At night, judges are “on call,” and can issue a restraining order over the telephone.  The order can require a person to vacate the premises until the matter can be heard in court.  When the matter is heard in court, the order can be extended for up to one year. 

Violations of a Restraining Order are criminal acts, and can cause further arrests and prosecution.  The police and district attorneys’ offices take these cases very seriously; no one wants to be accused of ignoring a cry for help and allowing someone to be seriously injured or die as a result.

The order cannot stop an abuser who does not fear arrest.  The law doesn’t always work perfectly.  There are many horror stories of people who have injured or killed their partners despite court orders.  If you don’t take at least some step, though, you have no protection, no buffer.  However, if you need additional protection, go to a shelter, and discuss other steps with an attorney, law enforcement officials, and family.

Guns are often used in the heat of passion.  If your spouse has guns, advise your attorney immediately.  If you own guns, store them safely away until your situation cools down; neither you nor your spouse wants to act (or be accused of acting) with a gun in the heat of an argument.  Remember, your own gun (or any weapon) can be turned against you.

Restraining orders affect custody determinations.  A person found to be threatening or violent under M.G.L. c. 209A is presumed unfit for custody absent an additional finding by the Court. 

Acts which are not “abuse” may still be criminal.  Certain forms of harassment are outlawed even when there is no family relationship.  This may be applied against the parties, their family, their friends, and others who “butt in” on a hotly contested divorce.

  Relationship threats and violence are never acceptable.

  The Abuse Prevention Act and other statutes address these threats and protect victims.

  Restraining orders and domestic violence are taken seriously by the courts and law enforcement.

  If you are abused, seek help.  If you are accused of abuse, follow all court orders and seek legal advice — whether or not you actually committed the acts of which you are accused.

Call or e-mail attorney Gregory Lee for further information.