209A Abuse Prevention orders are valuable tools to protect families from domestic violence. A judge can issue a 209A that requires an abuser to stay away from his or her partner, or extend the order to include any children in the household. Because of the power of a 209A (they often are in effect for a full year), a judge must carefully weigh the facts of the case when deciding the provisions of the order.
The 1995 case Jodi Smith v. Robert Joyce out of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts found that while the plaintiff, Ms. Smith, had demonstrated that she was “in fear of imminent serious physical harm”, thus meeting the statutory requirement for a 209A protective order, there was no evidence of abuse or harm between the defendant, Mr. Joyce, and his sons. Originally, the 209A in this case only allowed Mr. Joyce bi-weekly phone calls with his children. However on appeal, the judge ruled that, “If there is to be a G.L. c. 209A order that a defendant stay away from and have no contact with his or her minor children, there must be independent support for the order.” Because the only evidence of abuse was between the plaintiff and the defendant, the court struck the provision from the 209A order that directed him to stay away from his sons.