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What can I do if I need a custody order right away because of domestic violence?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed February 2022

If you need a custody order immediately because of domestic violence, you can file a 209A Complaint for Protection from Abuse.

Use pages 1 and 2 of the complaint, to ask for custody of your children.

Page 1 of 209A Complaint

Check box 7 on page 1 of the 209A complainta

Page 2 of 209A Complaint

Section of page 2 of 209A Complaint that asks about custody of minor children

When you fill out the 209A Complaint to ask for custody, write on the Affidavit why you need a custody order to keep your children safe.


  1. Tell the judge what happened and why you need a 209A order.
  2. Write down exactly what happened. Do the best you can. Write down the things he said or did like, "He told me he would get his gun and shoot me."
  3. Start with the most recent incident.
  4. Include information about injuries, if children were present or hurt, police involvement, medical treatment, other help you got, or destruction of property.

See Writing your 209A Affidavit

See Asking for 209A restraining order forms if you have children under 18.

Where do I file?

You can file a 209A in a Probate and Family Court, a District Court, or a Boston Municipal Court.


Some District Court and Boston Municipal Court judges and clerks may tell you to go to Probate and Family Court to get a 209A protective order when children are involved. The 209A Guidelines say District Court and BMC judges and clerks should not send you to another court.1 You have the right to get a 209A order from a District Court or Boston Municipal Court to protect your children.

Read about not being sent to the Probate and Family Court if your case involves children.

Read about filing in a District Court or a Boston Municipal Court (BMC) if there already is a custody order from a Probate and Family Court.


1 . See Page 45 of the Guidelines for Judicial Practice: Abuse Prevention Proceedings (2011)See Page 45 of the Guidelines for Judicial Practice: Abuse Prevention Proceedings (2011).

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