In this unprecedented time of COVID-19 (the coronavirus), day-to-day life has changed tremendously. The Governor of Massachusetts has ordered all non-essential businesses to close and limited gatherings to fewer than 10 people. Many major events have been cancelled and everyone is being told to simply “STAY HOME”. Every facet of people’s lives have been affected. Many people are working from home. They are the lucky ones. Many others have been either furloughed, laid off or even fired from their jobs. It is a stressful time.
Between the economic stress, fear that you or a loved will get sick, pure boredom, and the cabin fever that comes from too much togetherness with your family, it is easy to see why experts are predicting a record number of divorce filings when this pandemic is all over. However, in addition to divorce, many of these same stressors also lead to domestic violence.
It is important to know that if you have been or are the victim of domestic violence, the police and courts will continue to help protect you from your abuser. As always if you are a victim, you should call the police and file a report. The courthouses are closed, but the courts are still functioning, although in different ways.
- The police can still arrest the abuser and remove him or her from the household;
- The courts will proceed with the charges as before, although most court hearings will be held by telephone or videoconference;
- You can also continue to seek a Domestic 209A restraining order against your abuser. The hearings for these, both during and after court hours, would be held either by telephone or videoconference. Simply seek assistance at your local police station;
- Under normal circumstances, temporary 209A restraining orders typically will remain in effect for two weeks. However, in light of the pandemic and court closures, this period may be greater than two weeks depending on the court’s ability to hear the matter. Where the next hearing is greater than two weeks, the restraining order remains in effect until such time as it can be heard. Like most other matters, at this time (at least until 5/4/20) any such hearing will be done virtually, either by telephone or videoconference.
An additional concern may be the news that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has issued orders to allow some prisoners who are being held before their trial on no bail or high bail are being allowed to seek release and reconsideration of their bail. This decision was made in order to minimize the number of prisoners being held and hopefully reduce the spread of Covid-19. This only applies to people who are awaiting trial not to those who have been convicted and sentenced. There are exceptions to this order, however, including offenses involving domestic violence. If the abuser is held either with very high bail or no bail for a case involving domestic violence, there is a good chance they will not be released.
If you find yourself in a domestic violence situation, there is still help available. The police will come and judges are available via phone and video conference to issue restraining orders or to arraign and jail offenders. You are not alone, reach out for help.
If you need legal help to guide you through a domestic violence situation during this challenging time, call Contant Law at 617-227-8383.