How Long Does a Harassment Order Last in Massachusetts?

Woman looking at calendar on wall counting down the days until her Massachusetts Restraining Order expires.

In Massachusetts, a harassment prevention order typically lasts for up to one year but can be extended under certain circumstances. Extensions can be granted if the petitioner proves that harassment is likely to continue or that there’s a new incident of harassment. The duration may vary based on court discretion and the specifics of each case.

Understanding Harassment Prevention Orders in Massachusetts

Harassment can happen in various forms, from persistent unwelcome text messages to threats of physical violence. In Massachusetts, when such behavior crosses the line, a civil court order known as a Harassment Prevention Order can be issued. This is a legal tool designed to protect you from someone who causes you fear or harm, not limited to, but including, a household member or family member.

The Path to Obtaining a Harassment Prevention Order

Initiating a harassment prevention order begins at your local district court. You must complete an application form detailing the nature of the harassment—this may include evidence of malicious conduct, such as documented phone calls or text messages. The legal advice I provide will ensure your application captures all relevant details to substantiate your fear of imminent serious physical harm.

The Temporary Order and the 10-Day Hearing

In emergency situations, a temporary order, often referred to as an ex-parte order, is available. Ex-parte just means “one party”. That’s because you’ll be the only one testifying at that stage. You’ll have your ex-parte hearing the same day you file your paperwork.

This immediate protection is granted without the presence of your abuser/harasser and typically lasts until the 10-day hearing also known as the 2-party hearing. The police department will serve the Temporary Order on your abuser/harasser and they will be given notice that the 2-party hearing is scheduled.

At the 2-party hearing you’ll be able to explain to the judge why you want the Order. Be sure to bring any evidence and witnesses you want the judge to hear from. Your abuser/harasser will also have a chance to talk to the judge to explain why the Order shouldn’t be granted.

Emergency Orders

Emergency Orders serve as a swift protective measure, typically granted outside normal court hours.  If you are in immediate need of the court’s protection after hours, you should go to your local police station. There is a judge on call state-wide 24 hours a day. That judge can issue an Emergency Order which is valid until the close of the next business day. If you want to extend the Order, you have to go to court that next business day, file your paperwork and have your ex-parte hearing.

The Duration and Extension of Prevention Orders

Typically, if the judge is convinced you need an order for your protection after the 2-party hearing, they will extend your Order for one year. On the expiration date of your Order, if you want it extended again, you need to go back to court and ask for the extension.

The Extension Hearing

An extension hearing is where we argue why additional time is needed for your protection. We’ll prepare by gathering fresh evidence or documenting any new instances of harassment. The court takes such requests seriously, especially when there’s a concern about the potential for criminal charges against the harasser.

Responding to Harassment: Criminal Charges and
Legal Recourses

Should the individual you’re filing against react with further harassment or threats, it may lead to criminal charges. This underscores the seriousness of the situation and adds a layer of protection for you. It’s not just a matter of a civil order anymore; it’s a criminal case that can result in police department involvement.

Violations and Enforcement of Harassment Orders

Once in place, a harassment order demands strict compliance. Violations by the specific person named in the order can lead to criminal penalties. Those penalties include fines of up to $5,000 and a jail sentence up to 2 ½ years in the House of Corrections.

It’s essential to understand that any breach of the order—be it through direct contact or through social media sites—can have serious repercussions for the violator. In the event of such violations, you should contact the police immediately.

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.

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