C.O. v. M.M.
442 Mass. 648 (2004)

Facts:

  • The defendant, M.M., was a seventeen year old high school student accused of having sexually assaulted a fifteen year old schoolmate.
  • The plaintiff in this case, C.O., was the mother of the young woman who was allegedly abused.
  • Shortly after the alleged incident, the plaintiff filed a complaint and supporting affidavit on behalf of her daughter and obtained an ex parte abuse prevention order against the defendant.
  • The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to show the existence of a “substantive dating relationship” between him and the plaintiff’s daughter, and that, consequently, the abuse prevention order against him was improperly issued and extended.

Issue:
Whether the plaintiff’s daughter and the defendant were engaged in a “substantive dating relationship” as defined in G.L. c. 209A, § 1.

Holding:
No. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • General Laws c. 209A, § 3, provides a range of protections and remedies for those “persons suffering from abuse from an adult or minor family or household member….” Included within the definition of “family or household members” are those individuals who are or have been engaged in a substantive dating or engagement relationship.
  • The statute directs courts to adjudge the existence of substantive dating relationships by considering four factors:
    • The length of time of the relationship;
    • The type of relationship;
    • The frequency of interaction between the parties; and
    • If the relationship has been terminated by either person, the length of time elapsed since the termination of the relationship.
  • Here, the judge erred by ignoring these factors and instead improperly relied upon judicially constructed factors, including the fact that a criminal matter had been issued, and the age of the alleged victim. According to the judge, the determination was based “primarily” on the fact that a criminal case was pending. There was no testimony as to the length of time of the relationship or the frequency of the parties’ interactions, as required by the statute.