Those annoying messages may not be enough to warrant a Harassment Prevention Order

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Substantial harassment from an ex may not be enough to warrant you a restraining order, according to a recently published appeals court opinion: In this particular case, a female made numerous requests for her ex to stop contacting her, and the male ex continued reaching out despite the requests.

The female resorted to applying for an Order to stop the contact, and a Harassment Prevention Order was granted at the original ex parte hearing (in which an order is issued with only one party in attendance and without notice). However, according to Massachusetts laws, the evidence on which the Order was issued wasn’t enough: To gain a Harassment Order, Massachusetts law states that there have to be “three or more acts of willful and malicious content aimed at a specific person committed with the intent to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property.”

The Court notes that although the Plaintiff may be aggravated or annoyed at the persistent messages and attempts to contact her by her ex, that is not enough for a Harassment Prevention Order.

A footnote in the case does cite some messages referenced in the first hearing (attended only by the Plaintiff), that may have met the standard – but they were not presented as evidence at the review hearing. The Plaintiff did not have counsel at either hearing.

What does this mean?

Whether seeking or defending a harassment prevention order or an abuse prevention order (commonly known as a restraining order), a Plaintiff or Defendant should always confer with counsel.

Additionally, the Appeals Court again affirmed that a Defendant is not entitled to appellate review of an ex parte order (meaning if the lower court issued the order, there is no appeal possible).  Even if the Defendant is ultimately able to prove that the original order never should have issued, the original ex parte order will not be expunged and may appear on a criminal record or background check.

Restraining Orders and Harassment Prevention Orders can have long standing consequences, and should be discussed with an attorney experienced in the field. If you need expert guidance, contact Ryan Faenza Carey for a consultation today.

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