Does a Restraining Order Show Up on a Background Check in Massachusetts?

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In Massachusetts, a restraining order may appear on a background check, as they are generally considered public records. The visibility of a restraining order on a background check can depend on the thoroughness of the check and the type (civil or criminal) of the restraining order issued. Background checks that include court records will likely reveal both current and past restraining orders.

The Basics of Restraining Orders

Understanding Different Types

Restraining orders, such as abuse prevention orders and harassment prevention orders, are designed to protect individuals from harm. They can be issued in various circumstances, ranging from family court matters to harassment by non-household members.

Temporary vs. Permanent Orders

Temporary restraining orders offer immediate, short-term protection and may precede permanent orders. Understanding the terms and duration of these orders is crucial, as they carry different consequences for the individuals involved.

Restraining Orders and Your Criminal Record

Criminal Charges and Restraining Orders

While restraining orders themselves are not criminal charges, they can be associated with criminal offenses if they stem from incidents involving violence or threats. It’s important to know how this association can reflect on your criminal record.

Although a restraining order is civil in nature, the violation of that order is a criminal matter. That means if someone does something that the restraining order prohibits, they can be charged with a crime and that, of course, does appear on your criminal record.

Impact on Security Clearance
and Employment Opportunities

A restraining order could influence your eligibility for jobs requiring a security clearance or positions within law enforcement agencies, which usually involve thorough background checks.

Public Record and Court Orders

Accessing Court Records

Massachusetts courts maintain records of all court activity, making restraining orders typically a matter of public record. These records can be accessed by anyone with standard access to court databases.

How Public Records Affect You

This public availability means that restraining orders may appear on general criminal background checks, which can be a common concern for potential employers or educational institutions.

Legal Proceedings and Restraining Orders

The Court Hearing Process

Understanding the court processes, including the burden of proof required and what occurs during an order hearing, is essential. Whether you’re the plaintiff or the restrained party, each step matters.

After the Court Date

Post-hearing actions can vary. A permanent order may be issued, or a temporary order might expire. Sometimes, the person seeking the order doesn’t show up for the two-party hearing. Without them, the order usually expires at the end of the business day.

Law Enforcement's Role

Immediate and Long-term Actions

Law enforcement officers play a vital role in the enforcement of restraining orders, from the moment of issuance to ensuring compliance over time. When an order is issued by the Court, that Order is served on the defendant by the police. If you need a Restraining Order when the courts are not open, you can go to your local police department and request an emergency order.

Restraining Order Violations

Violating the terms of a restraining order is a criminal matter, and it’s a good idea to understand the consequences, which can lead to criminal charges and further legal issues. A violation of a Restraining Order carries a maximum jail sentence of two and a half years at the House of Corrections.

Seeking Legal Advice

The Value of Experienced Legal Counsel

An experienced attorney can offer legal advice that helps navigate the complexities of restraining orders, from initiating an order to managing its effects on your life.

Choosing the Right Legal Assistance

Selecting legal assistance with years of experience in restraining order cases can make a significant difference. Your attorney’s guidance can be instrumental in achieving a favorable outcome.

At Afford Law, we understand that paying for a lawyer can be a financial burden. That’s why we base our fees on your income. The less you earn, the less you pay. Our mission is to provide experienced legal representation you can afford.


Restraining orders have far-reaching implications, and understanding their impact is the first step toward managing their effect on your life. With knowledgeable legal counsel, you can address the potential impact effectively.

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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