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Legal Information: Massachusetts

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of December 14, 2023

What type of harassment prevention orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders: temporary ex parte orders and final orders.

If the judge believes that you are in immediate danger of harassment, the judge can grant you a temporary ex parte order. A temporary order will last until the final hearing, which usually takes place within ten business days.1

If the court is closed or you are unable to go to court because of your physical condition, the judge can issue a temporary ex parte order by phone. Once it’s issued, the order goes to a police officer who would then get it approved by the clerk. This temporary order would only last until the next business day. Then you or someone on your behalf (a “representative”) would have to file the petition and an affidavit explaining your physical condition.1

The court will immediately have to notify the abuser about the temporary harassment prevention order and about the upcoming hearing date.2

The final prevention order can be given at a hearing where both you and the harasser can be present, and it can last for up to one year.3

At the final hearing, you and the abuser will both have the opportunity to present your sides of the story through witnesses, testimony and other evidence. Then the judge will make a decision whether to give you a final harassment prevention order or not. You have the right to have a lawyer with you and it is generally best to have one, especially if you believe the harasser will have one. Go to our MA Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

If the abuser does not show up on the date of the final hearing, your temporary prevention order would continue to be valid.2

1 M.G.L.A. 258E § 6
2 M.G.L.A. 258E § 5
3 M.G.L.A. 258E § 3(d)