In an earlier post I laid out statutory requirements for getting a harassment prevention order in Massachusetts.
In this post I want to focus on a few practical points to know when preparing to present your HPO petition to the court.
Tip 1: Have At Least Three Specific Examples of Harassment
The statute requires three or more instances of harassment.
I can’t tell you how many HPO petitions I’ve seen fail due to the fact that the petitioner could not clearly state three specific occasions when harassment took place.
So if you’re thinking about seeking a HPO, it’s essential that you have a minimum of three events that rise to the level of harassment.
Be ready to give dates, times, and any evidence that you can come up with to support each of the three examples.
Tip 2: “Fighting Words”
The next practical point to emphasize is the importance of “fighting words.”
Although the harassment statute (M.G.L. c. 258E) does not expressly use that phrase, judges almost always ask if “fighting words” were used in any or all of the three incidents of harassment.
If the defendant used threats of violence against you on at least three occasions, a judge will almost certainly issue the harassment prevention order.
Tip 3: Don’t Apply for a HPO, If a Restraining Order Is Preferable
One last practical tip to keep in mind: before you petition for a HPO, make sure that a restraining order is not better suited to your situation.
If the person doing the harassment or abuse is related to you or if you are in a dating relationship with the defendant, a restraining order maybe more appropriate than a HPO.