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Legal Information: Massachusetts

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of
December 14, 2023

What types of abuse prevention orders are there? How long do they last?

There are three types of orders.

Emergency protective orders: The police may be able to help you get an emergency protective order, which is issued by a judge over the telephone through something called the “Emergency Judicial Response System,” if you are unable to appear in court to file for an order because:

  • the court is closed; or
  • due to your physical condition, it would present a “severe hardship” for you to get to court.1

To grant you the order, the judge must believe that there is a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse. Once the judge authorizes the order over the phone to the police, the police would write it down on a form provided by the court and deliver it the next business day to the clerk-magistrate in the appropriate court. You will then have to appear in court on the next business day to file your complaint (petition) for an order. If your severe physical condition prevents you from appearing in court, then you can send someone else on your behalf to file the complaint and s/he will have to file an affidavit that explains the circumstances that make it impossible for you to appear in court yourself.1 You can read more about this process in the After-hours Abuse Prevention Packet Instructions, available on the Massachusetts Court System website.

Temporary (ex parte) orders: When you go to court to file for an abuse prevention order, you can request a temporary ex parte order. A temporary ex parte order can be granted immediately, without a full court hearing and without the abuser being notified beforehand if the judge believes there is a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse. The order will last until the hearing, which will be within ten business days.2

Long-term orders: A long-term abuse prevention order can be issued after the abuser is given notice and the chance to appear at a court hearing where you and the abuser will each have a chance to present evidence to the judge. If you can prove that you were abused, the judge can issue you an order for up to one year. The order will state the time and date that the order will expire as well as the date and time that you can appear in court to ask for the order to be extended. When the expiration date stated on the order is on a weekend day, a holiday, or a date when the court is closed to business, the order shall not expire until the next date that the court is open. The order can later be extended permanently.4 For more information on how to extend an order, see How do I change or extend my abuse prevention order?

1 M.G.L.A. 209A § 5; see also M.G.L.A. 211B § 9(vi)
2 M.G.L.A. 209A § 4
3 M.G.L.A. 209A § 3
4 M.G.L.A. 209A § 3(i)