How Do I Extend a Restraining Order in Massachusetts?

Judge extending Massachusetts Restraining Order.

To extend a restraining order in Massachusetts, you need to ask for an extension on the day the current order expires. The order you currently have has an expiration date on it. If you want to extend it, you have to go before a judge where you will explain why you still feel threatened and need the order to continue. You should provide any new evidence of threats or harassment. The judge will then decide whether to extend the restraining order based on the evidence and circumstances presented. Typically, orders are extended for one year.

The Role of Restraining Orders

If you’re feeling threatened and need continued protection, understanding how to extend a restraining order is crucial. In Massachusetts, a Restraining Order, which could be an Abuse Prevention Order or a Harassment Prevention Order, can offer you legal protection from harm or harassment by someone else.

Understanding Restraining Orders in Massachusetts

What is an Abuse Prevention Order?

An Abuse Prevention Order is a court order designed to protect individuals from a family member or intimate partner who poses a threat of physical harm. These orders are granted by various courts and can dictate:

  • temporary custody of a minor child,
  • require the payment of child support, or
  • demand the abusive person to stay away from you.

Abuse Prevention Order vs. Harassment Prevention Order

While an Abuse Prevention Order typically addresses the threats from someone with whom you have a domestic relationship, Harassment Prevention Orders are available if you’re dealing with:

  • stalking,
  • sexual violence, or
  • harassing behavior

from someone you do not have a close domestic relationship with. Both types of orders are enforced by law enforcement agencies and carry serious implications for violations.

Preparing for an
Extension Hearing

The Importance of Timely Action

Timing is crucial when seeking an extension of your order. You must show up at court on the day your original order is set to expire. You want to make sure that an extension is granted before your initial order runs out to avoid any gaps in protection. If you don’t show up for court, the order will expire.

Gathering Necessary Evidence

If you have any new information you’d like the judge to see, bring it with you. If there were any violations of the current order, make sure you make that known. You want to explain exactly why you’re afraid and why the order should be extended.

What Happens at the
Extension Hearing?

Presenting Evidence

During the extension hearing in front of a judge, the burden of proof rests with you. You must demonstrate a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse, often by a preponderance of the evidence, to have the order extended. A preponderance of the evidence simply means that it’s more likely than not. Think of it as the judge being 51% convinced. That’s a much lower standard than the reasonable doubt standard that’s used at criminal trials.

The Judge's Decision

The judge will consider all parts of the order, the evidence presented, and whether there is a continued risk. If extended, the order may remain a temporary order, or in some cases, become a permanent order. Although permanent orders are possible, they’re very rare. More likely, if the judge extends the order it will be for one year.

The Outcome of the Hearing

If the Extension Is Granted

If the judge grants the extension, you will receive a copy of the order. It’s important to keep a copy with you. If your abuser violates the order, you should call the police immediately. They have access to a statewide database of Restraining Orders, but sometimes things fall through the cracks and the system isn’t totally accurate. Also, if you’re out of state when the violation happens, those officers probably won’t be able to look it up.

In Case of a Denial

If the extension is not granted, it’s vital to understand the appeals process. You have the right to file a notice of appeal, and a Massachusetts appeals court can review the decision. The appeals process is not easy. It requires an understanding of the Rules of Appellate Procedure. But it is an option. Also, if something changes after the order was denied, such as increased harassing behavior or some incident of abuse, you always have the right to go back to court and apply for a new order.

After the Hearing: Next Steps

Understanding the Extended Order

Once the order is extended, make sure you understand all terms, including any changes. Discuss with your attorney the parts of the order that are crucial for your protection, such as temporary support, custody, or contact prohibitions. The most important thing is to keep you safe.

Violations of the Order

It is a criminal offense to violate a protection order. If the restrained party disobeys the order, contact law enforcement officers immediately. The violator may face criminal charges and have a criminal record. Criminal penalties for violating the order include a maximum jail sentence of 2 ½ years at the House of Corrections.

Safety Planning and
Legal Resources

Creating a Safety Plan

Your safety is paramount. Work with your attorney or a local advocacy group to create a safety plan. This plan may include actions to take if the abusive person attempts contact or you feel threatened again. A Restraining Order can be helpful in providing for your safety, but you should take all reasonable steps as well.

Finding Affordable Legal Help

Obtaining legal advice does not have to break the bank. Organizations like Afford Law provide access to legal services for victims of domestic violence, offering assistance in extending restraining orders and handling related family court matters. Our fees are based on your income, so the less you make, the less you pay.

Help Getting a Restraining Order in Massachusetts

If you’d like help getting a Restraining Order without paying an expensive attorney, we can help. With our Legal Coaching we can walk you through every step to make sure you’re ready for your hearing. The first thing to do is see if you qualify for a Massachusetts Restraining Order. Click on the link below to see if you qualify for either type of Restraining Order.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and receive tailored guidance.

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