Domestic Violence

Harassment Prevention Orders Under G.L. c. 258E

I have written in the past about 209A Abuse Prevention Orders – the mechanism by which victims of family or household violence can obtain court orders of protection.  Burns & Levinson partners Ronald Barriere and Cici Van Tine recently presented on the issue of divorcing an abusive spouse, which included discussion of the protections available. But what about someone who is being harassed or abused by someone who is not a spouse, family, or household member?

Under Chapter 258E of the Massachusetts General Laws, someone who is the victim of harassment can request an Order from the Superior Court, District Court, Boston Municipal Court, or Juvenile Court (for parties under age 17) to prevent harassment or abuse.  Unlike when seeking a Chapter 209A Abuse Prevention Order, a party seeking a Chapter 258E Order is not required to show that the parties are related or have a history of any type of marital or dating relationship.  Anyone can obtain a 258E Harassment Prevention Order upon a showing of harassment.

Harassment for purposes of obtaining a 258E Order is defined as (i) 3 or more acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at a specific person committed with the intent … Keep reading

Divorcing an Abusive Spouse: What Do You Need to Know?

In episode four of our divorce-focused webinar series, attorneys Ronald Barriere and Carolyn Childs Van Tine aim to demystify the process and help alleviate anxieties common in the dissolution of abusive relationships. For instance, how can the presence of abuse impact the process of selecting a divorce attorney? What are the co-parenting strategies, and what legal options are there when children are involved? Learn the practical considerations and legal procedures you will face and gain insight to help you navigate your divorce with confidence.

Please note, courtesy of the National Domestic Violence Hotline: “Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. Users of web browser Microsoft Edge will be redirected to Google when clicking the ‘X’ or ‘Escape’ button.”

Click here to watch the full episode.… Keep reading

How to Obtain a 209A Abuse Prevention Order During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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 … Keep reading

Divorce and Space Crimes

The First Crime in Space! Recent headlines from The New York Times and other prominent news agencies drew in readers stating that the first crime in space had allegedly been committed. The articles went on to discuss the thorny privacy and jurisdictional issues given that NASA was involved and the crime was purported to have occurred on the International Space Station, where astronauts from the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada orbit the Earth. At its heart, however, the supposed first crime in space is a bitterly contested domestic relations matter involving income, assets, custody of a child, and de facto parent status.

Summer Worden and Anne McClain (a decorated NASA astronaut who was tapped for the first all-female spacewalk, and is in consideration to be the first woman on the moon) were married in 2014. Ms. Worden has a son, who was born approximately one year before the parties met.

By 2018, the parties’ relationship had broken down, and Ms. McClain, who had no legal status as a parent to Ms. Worden’s son, approached a Texas Court asking for shared parenting rights to the child and “the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child.” … Keep reading

For the Love of Pets

I grew up in a family where pets were always present. My dad was known to just randomly show up at home with a new puppy.  At one point in my childhood, I think there were two dogs, two cats, two hamsters and a few fish living in our house.  I have continued to share my home with pets in my adulthood – with always at least one cat (ok, often two). I have had my pets photographed with Santa (it was for charity!). I am known to give birthday cards from my dogs. At least I don’t dress them up in costumes – well, not usually.

Many people – myself included – consider their pets to be much more than property and love those pets almost as much as they love their children. Pets can become non-judgmental friends, companions for long walks, and a shoulder to cry on during difficult times. As my colleague, Andrea Dunbar, wrote in her recent post, pets are considered property in the Probate and Family Court when it comes to who will keep a pet after a divorce.  But, where there is abuse, the Court can give a victim care and control … Keep reading

Depressed WomanHi there,

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Nearly one in four women and one in seven men in the United States have suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Female to male and same-sex violence happens and are just as bad, but often less reported. Many are surprised to hear that men are also subject to domestic violence. In fact many men are reluctant to admit that violence is occurring.

Some Victims Don’t Realize They Are Victims

Abusers start small and follow a cycle that tends to be similar. Anger, denigration, blow up, abuse and apology… followed by penitence and some good times before the cycle begins again. Only worse. As the cycle repeats it becomes harder and harder for the victim to leave. Abusers tend to be highly manipulative and convince their victims that they are worthless, powerless and unable to escape. Some victims become so accustomed to this treatment that it becomes their new version of normal, and they lose an urge to leave.

There are many toxic, abusive marriages where there is no physical violence. However, the victim is subject to such unending, demeaning denigration that he or she becomes stuck in … Keep reading

NFL Sheds Spotlight on Domestic Violence

Hi there,

I wrote a post in July on domestic violence referencing the Ray Rice situation. At that time I had only seen the first video showing the aftermath. The second video is even more shocking (viewer discretion advised). However, viewing the first video left no doubt in my mind as to what had happened in that elevator. I am glad that the Ravens and Roger Goodell decided to penalize Rice for real, but disappointed as to how much it took to get there.

It is good to have this discussion in public, because often it isn’t public. If it weren’t for the casino’s security cameras, I doubt that Mrs. Rice would have done anything in response to her attack. And the next time it happens, or the time after that, there will be very real damage.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As such, and in light of the recent NFL situations, a blog in California recently published some astonishing and scary statistics about domestic violence. Statistics and experience show that it does not occur just against women. And I know anecdotally from 35 years of practice that it is very under-reported by men. We’ve come … Keep reading

Parental Alienation: Part 2

Hi there,

Parental alienation in the divorce process may be an unavoidable fact of life.  Bad situations can make good people behave in destructive ways, and, of course, not everyone pursuing divorce is a good person.

As I started to discuss in my last post, there seems to me to be a dramatic increase in the number of divorce cases I see with parental alienation involving children age 10 to 18 (and older). In these situations with this particular age group there seems to be a changed dynamic: Dad is most often the parent with whom the alienated children are allied. With younger children the literature seems to say it is primarily mom with whom the kids ally.

Also in most of the cases I have seen (and there have been too many) there is often more than one child involved. The children also tend to be encouraging each other in the alienating behavior, with the older children pushing the younger into it.

In every case of older children alienation that I have handled, there has been an overlay of either physical violence or severe emotional abuse. In the cases of emotional abuse the denigration of mom by … Keep reading

Depressed Woman

Hi there,

Depressed WomanI hope you all had a terrific Fourth of July!  I also hope that you were not a victim of domestic violence over a long, hot holiday weekend.

I came across some statistics for San Francisco recently which were pretty shocking.  They reflected an increase in domestic violence reporting, due to a local story.  However, the underlying reality of violence is probably pretty much the same everywhere.  I was shocked to see in a variety of sources that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence.  Neither wealth nor celebrity status prevents violence.  In fact, Mr. Charles Saatchi has filed for divorce from his wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, complaining that she didn’t defend him when he was photographed choking her in public.

It is not just a crime against women though.  Over the years I have represented numbers of men abused by their wives.  However, I was still shocked to discover that 40% of domestic violence is perpetrated against men.  As a group, they are way less likely to report or even admit that they have been victims.  While women are more often killed as a result of domestic violence, men are more often attacked with … Keep reading

Domestic Violence in the News

Hi there,

Jovan Belcher
Credit: newyorker.com

The news has been full of the sad story of football player Jovan Belcher shooting his baby’s mother 9 times, then driving to the practice field and killing himself in front of his coaches. There has been lots of punditry surrounding football and concussions, guns, drugs and alcohol, and even mental illness, but not so much discussion of what is likely the real issue: domestic violence.  (Here’s a link to a good article I recently found about keeping yourself safe in a  domestic violence situation.)

There were plenty of clues that Belcher had anger issues with the girlfriends in his life, and it appears that the Chiefs were aware of this as they were providing counselling for him.  Professional sports is a very high testosterone universe. I have long believed that the professional sports teams, in an attempt to protect their investment in the players, have long sheltered abusers and quieted victims.  Not the same as Penn State, but not dissimilar either.

On a more positive note in the same area, Massachusetts has passed a pet protection law as part of our domestic violence protection. This is wonderful on so many levels, … Keep reading