Divorces are sometimes initiated due to abuse inflicted by one spouse against the other. Abuse is defined as “the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members: (a) attempting to cause or causing physical harm; (b) placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm; (c) causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force or duress.” M.G.L.A. c. 209A, §1. A link to the statute can be found here: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartII/TitleIII/Chapter209A.
If a victim meets these statutory factors based upon representations in an affidavit or orally, a restraining order against the other spouse may issue on an ex parte basis without notice to the other party. The restraining order prohibits a spouse from going near or contacting the victim. The accused will have an opportunity to be heard in approximately ten days after the order issues. The person accused of abuse will typically be removed from the home by the police and access to children may be an issue. Once the personal accused of abuse has an opportunity to be heard, the restraining order will either be continued or allowed to expire on its own terms. Many courts have jurisdiction over restraining orders. If a divorce is filed, it is common for the restraining order to be transferred to the probate and family court so that custody and parenting time can be addressed in the context of the restraining order and the divorce. There are also harassment orders that can be obtained when a party can prove three or more acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at a specific person committed with the intent to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property and that does in fact cause feu, intimidation, abuse or damage to property, although this statute is less commonly employed in family law matters. M.G.L.A. c. 258E. A link to the statute can be found here: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIII/TitleIV/Chapter258E. Restraining orders are difficult to navigate in a divorce process as sometimes the process is abused, and the existence of a restraining order can impact access to children and employment, and impede the ability to co-parent.