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Domestic Abuse Case Requires Prompt Evidentiary Hearings

Domestic Abuse Case Requires Prompt Evidentiary Hearings

Posted on June 16th, 2014

Domestic Abuse Lawyers – Bristol County, MA

Divorce and Custody Attorneys

In the recent case of Singh v. Capuano (Docket SJC-11491/SJC-11565, June 11, 2014), the appeals court heard an appeal relating to a domestic abuse filing by a woman against her boyfriend and father of her child.  She also filed a criminal report against Capuano.  At an ex parte hearing (which means an emergency hearing without notice to the other party), the court ordered a protective order so that Capuano had to stay at least 50 yards away and have no contact with Singh or the parties’ child.

Both parties appeared before the district court judge eight days later, and the court denied Singh’s request to have an evidentiary hearing and simply continued (pushed the hearing out) to a date three months later, continuing the protective orders as well.  At the continued hearing date, the court vacated the restraining order again and denied Singh’s request for an evidentiary hearing.

The Massachusetts statute G.L. c. 209A calls for a prompt evidentiary hearing on the merits for cases involving requests for protective orders from domestic abuse.

See Guidelines for Judicial Practice: Abuse Prevention Proceedings § 5:00 (Sept. 2011) (Guidelines) (“A hearing after notice in a c. 209A case should be scheduled as soon as possible after an ex parte order is issued, but in no event later than ten court business days after the issuance of such an order”); id. at § 5:01 (“The hearing after notice in a c. 209A action at which both parties appear is an adversarial proceeding in which both parties must be allowed to present evidence”). See also S.T. v. E.M., 80 Mass. App. Ct. 423, 429 (2011) (“absent serious court congestion or some other emergency, judges should hear and decide scheduled [c. 209A] matters if the parties are ready and wish to have a hearing”).

In this case, the judge should have held an evidentiary hearing within the requisite 10 day time frame from the date the ex parte order was entered.  Although a short continuance is allowed, such continuances should not be granted lightly.

For more information about domestic abuse and how our attorneys can assist you, call our office at (508) 316-9720 or send us an email today.