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Legal Information: Massachusetts

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of December 14, 2023

Can I get my protection enforced in Massachusetts? What are the requirements?

Under Massachusetts state law, any ex parte, temporary, or final protection orders issued by civil or criminal court in another state, territory, or possession of the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, or a tribal court can be enforced throughout Massachusetts as long as the order was issued for the purpose of preventing:

  • violent or threatening acts against you;
  • harassment against you;
  • contact or communication with you; or
  • physical closeness to you.1

In addition, under federal law, which applies to all states, there are slightly different rules about which types of orders can be enforced in Massachusetts. Your protective order can be enforced in Massachusetts under federal law as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.2
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
  • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.3

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 M.G.L.A. 209A §§ 5A; 1; MA Abuse Prev. 14:00
2 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
3 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)

Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended or canceled in Massachusetts?

Generally, only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order. You cannot have this done by a court in Massachusetts.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued. You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living. To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in Massachusetts, you may be able to get a new one issued in Massachusetts but this may be difficult to do if no incidents of abuse have taken place in Massachusetts. To find out more information on how to get an abuse prevention order in Massachusetts, visit our MA Restraining Orders page.

I was granted temporary custody with my out-of-state protection order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in Massachusetts?

As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 Massachusetts can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area. To find a lawyer in your area, go to our MA Finding a Lawyer page.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.