Massachusetts Restraining Orders

Woman filling out Massachusetts Restraining Order application.

A Massachusetts Restraining Order, can be a 209A Abuse Prevention Order, or a 258E Harassment Prevention Order. The Abuse Prevention Order is a court order used to protect you from being abused by a family or household member. A Harassment Prevention Order stops someone from harming or harassing you regardless of your relationship with them. It prohibits the abuser from contacting or abusing the person seeking the order, can order the abuser to stay away from the petitioner’s home/work, and may include custody of minor children. It is issued in cases of domestic violence or threat of abuse and is enforceable throughout the state. Violation of the order can result in criminal charges.

Table of Contents

Defining a Restraining Order

A Tool for Safety and Prevention

A restraining order in Massachusetts is a legal way to keep someone who may hurt you or make you scared away from you. Think of it as a line drawn by the court that your abuser is not allowed to cross. If they do, it can lead to serious legal trouble for them. There are two main types of orders. They’re officially called either an Abuse Prevention Order or a Harassment Prevention Order. They’re meant to stop you from being harmed or feeling afraid of getting hurt, like a shield in the legal world.

These orders are not just pieces of paper; they are powerful tools backed by the court system. They can order the person to stop contacting you, which means no phone calls, text messages, or showing up where you work. The main idea is to make you feel safe and secure from any physical violence or threats.

Types of Restraining Orders

Protective Orders for Every Situation

There are a few different types of restraining orders in Massachusetts to fit different scary situations you might find yourself in:

2 types of massachusetts restraining orders

209A Abuse Prevention Orders:

This is what you ask for if you’re scared of someone you’re close to, like a family member, someone you’re dating, or a former spouse. It’s used a lot in situations where people used to have sexual relations or were in a household together.

258E Harassment Prevention Orders:

If someone isn’t a family member but is bothering you, stalking you, or scaring you, this is the type of order you might need. It’s meant to prevent malicious conduct that’s seriously upsetting or harmful.

Whether it’s a 209A or 258E order, you can get a temporary order quickly, usually the day you ask for it. This is called a Temporary Order. Later, there will be a court hearing where a judge decides if an extension of that Temporary Order is needed.

These restraining orders are like a barrier for your safety. If someone’s actions make you live in fear, these legal steps can help keep you protected. The court’s job is to listen and decide if a restraining order is the right way to help you stay safe.

Types of Restraining Orders
in Detail

Navigating the details of restraining orders is key to understanding how they can serve as a shield for those in need. Let’s dive into the specifics of each order and their processes.

209A Abuse Prevention Orders

Who Can Seek a 209A Protective Order and When

209A Abuse Prevention Orders, also known as domestic restraining orders, are available for individuals who are experiencing abuse from someone with whom they have a close relationship. Eligibility extends to those who are currently or formerly:

  • married,
  • related by blood,
  • living together,
  • have children together, or
  • are or have been in a dating relationship.

The essence of this order is to provide a safety net for those facing physical harm, fear of harm, or coercion, especially where there has been a pattern or serious incident of abuse.

The Steps to Obtaining a 209A Protective Order

To get a 209A Protective Order, you’ll need to file an application at your local court. As part of this application, you’ll provide a written affidavit explaining why you need protection, detailing the abuse or threats you’ve experienced. The court can issue a Temporary Protective Order on the same day, intended to protect you until the full court hearing takes place. During this second hearing, a judge will decide if a longer-term or permanent order is necessary based on the evidence and testimonies presented.

258E Harassment
Prevention Orders

Differentiating 258E Orders from 209A Orders

A 258E Harassment Prevention Order is designed for situations where you’re being:

  • harassed,
  • stalked, or
  • threatened

by someone with whom you do not have a domestic or family relationship. This type of order is distinct from the 209A because it is not limited to those who have an intimate or family connection with the abuser. It’s a legal solution for victims of consistent harassment, which can include:

  • stalking,
  • assault, or
  • forced sexual relations,

providing a protective barrier between the victim and the harasser.

Eligibility and Application for a 258E Harassment Prevention Order

To be eligible for a 258E Harassment Prevention Order, you must demonstrate that:

  1. you have been harassed with at least three incidents of willful and malicious behavior aimed at causing fear, intimidation, abuse, or damage to property,
  2. you had unwanted sexual relations because your harasser forced, threatened or coerced you, or,
  3. your harasser committed specific criminal acts.

The process involves completing an application and presenting evidence of the harassment to a judge. Just as with a 209A order, the court may issue a temporary order immediately, with a full hearing scheduled shortly thereafter to consider a more permanent solution.

Defining Harassment for a 258E Harassment Prevention Order

In the context of a 258E Harassment Prevention Order in Massachusetts, harassment is defined in specific legal terms. It encompasses a range of behaviors that are intended to cause fear, intimidation, abuse, or damage to property. For behavior to be legally recognized as harassment, there must be a clear pattern or series of acts—a minimum of three incidents—indicating a willful and malicious intent to cause harm or induce fear. These acts could include, but are not limited to:

  • threats,
  • assaults,
  • stalking, or
  • any actions that are purposefully directed at a person and are seriously alarming or annoying.


It’s not enough for the behavior to be irritating or offensive; the law requires that it cause a substantial level of emotional distress and that it would cause such distress to a reasonable person. In other words, the actions must be such that they would significantly disrupt one’s:

  • emotional tranquility,
  • safety, or
  • cause them to fear for their safety or the safety of others around them.

The court will examine the specifics of the behavior, including the context and any evidence presented, to determine if it meets the legal criteria for harassment.

Distinction Between Restraining Orders and No-Contact Orders

Restraining Orders and No-Contact Orders are both legal directives used to protect you from harm, but they differ in their scope and application. A restraining order, often arising from civil court proceedings, is broader and can include various provisions such as:

  • staying away from you,
  • refraining from contacting you, and
  • possibly excluding the respondent from a shared residence.

It can also cover additional stipulations like custody arrangements, and in some cases, provide financial support orders.

The terms of a restraining order can be tailored to your specific safety needs and may extend to other family members or household members. Abuse Prevention Orders are typically used in domestic situations where there’s a history or threat of abuse. The process to obtain a restraining order usually involves the petitioner providing evidence of abuse or threats, and if granted, the order is enforceable by law enforcement and carries legal consequences if violated.

A no-contact order, on the other hand, is typically issued as part of a criminal case and is a condition of bail, pre-trial release, or a criminal sentence. It strictly prohibits the defendant from contacting the victims or witnesses involved in the criminal case. This type of order is often automatically put in place in cases involving charges of violence or harassment to protect the alleged victim and witnesses from intimidation or retaliation.

Unlike restraining orders that a victim can request, no-contact orders are generally mandated by the court as part of criminal proceedings and are not initiated by the victim, although the victim’s wishes may be considered. The violation of a No-Contact Order, as with a Restraining Order, can result in immediate criminal penalties, including potential arrest.

Other Types of Orders

Extreme Risk Protective Orders

Extreme Risk Protective Orders are a tool for preventing potential harm before it happens, particularly in situations where an individual poses a significant risk of personal injury to themselves or others by possessing a firearm. These orders allow the court to temporarily remove access to firearms from individuals deemed to be at high risk. The aim is to prevent tragedies before they occur, and the process often involves family members or law enforcement petitioning the court for the individual’s safety and the safety of others.

Protective Orders for Minors

When it comes to protecting minors, the court system has specific provisions. Minors who are experiencing abuse, whether in a family setting or otherwise, can be protected under these specialized orders. In some cases, a parent or guardian may apply for a restraining order on behalf of the minor to ensure their safety. These orders are crucial in safeguarding the wellbeing of young individuals and provide the same level of protection as orders for adults, tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of minors.

Each type of restraining order in Massachusetts serves to address distinct threats and is governed by its specific legal procedures and eligibility criteria. Understanding these differences is vital for anyone seeking protection and the peace of mind that comes with it.

Navigating the legal system can be challenging, but understanding the process of obtaining and enforcing a restraining order can provide some peace of mind. Here’s a straightforward explanation to guide you.

Filing for a Restraining Order

A Step-by-Step Guide on Applying for Protection

When you decide to file for a Restraining Order, start by visiting your local court during court hours. If you’re seeking a 209A Abuse Prevention Order, you can apply for it in the:

  • Superior,
  • District,
  • Boston Municipal, or
  • Probate and Family Court.

If your applying for a 258E Harassment Prevention Order, you should go to the:

  • Superior,
  • District, or
  • Boston Municipal Court.

If you’re in immediate danger and the court is closed, you can obtain an Emergency Order by contacting your local police department. You will fill out some paperwork at the police station. An officer will contact the judge who is on call. You’ll then tell the judge why you need an Emergency Restraining Order. If it’s issued, it will be valid until the close of the business day on the next day the court is open.  

The evidence you bring is crucial; it could be anything from threatening messages or emails to police reports or witness testimonies. It’s also important to provide any medical records of injuries from physical abuse or photographs of damages. This evidence helps the judge understand the seriousness of your situation and the need for protection. Remember to make a copy of all documents for your records.

Required Documentation and Evidence

In your filing, include a sworn statement—a personal account where you honestly describe the events that led you to seek a restraining order. This is where you make your case, explaining why you fear imminent serious physical harm or ongoing harassment. It’s important to note:

  • dates,
  • times, and
  • the nature of any incidents,

as this will help the court understand the urgency and necessity of your request.

Accompanying your sworn statement should be any supporting evidence. If you’ve received threatening phone calls or text messages, print these out. If there have been police reports or incidents reported to law enforcement, these documents should be included. Additionally, if there are medical records that relate to the abuse, such as injury treatments or psychological evaluations, these will further substantiate your claim.

Court Procedures

The Ex Parte Hearing in the Restraining Order Process

On the same day you file your paperwork, you’ll have a hearing before the judge, it’s called an ex-parte hearing. An ex-parte hearing is a critical and unique aspect of the restraining order process. It takes place without the presence of your abuser/harasser, allowing a judge to hear an urgent request for protection and potentially grant an immediate Temporary Restraining Order. This kind of hearing is especially important in situations where there is an immediate risk of harm, and waiting for a full hearing with both parties present could result in serious consequences.

During the ex parte hearing, the judge will review the evidence and your sworn statement. This evidence must show that there is a credible threat to your safety. If the judge is convinced that there’s an immediate danger, a Temporary Restraining Order will be granted, which typically remains in effect until a full hearing can take place. This usually happens within 10 business days, at which time both parties have the opportunity to present their sides of the story before a final decision is made.

Understanding the ex parte process is vital for individuals seeking immediate protection, as it provides a quick legal avenue to prevent abuse or harassment. It’s designed to offer temporary relief in urgent situations, ensuring that the safety of the individual is prioritized while the court takes the necessary time to thoroughly consider the issuance of a longer-term restraining order.

Service of the Temporary Order and Notice of Hearing

When a temporary restraining order is issued following an ex-parte hearing, the next critical step is to serve the defendant with the order and notice of the upcoming two-party hearing. The service of the order is a legal requirement and must be done properly to ensure the defendant is fully aware of the restrictions placed against them and the date they must appear in court. The police department will serve the order on your abuser/harsser.

The documents served include a copy of the Temporary Restraining Order and the notice of:

  • the hearing date,
  • time, and
  • location.

The notice will also inform the defendant of the allegations and the potential for a permanent order to be put in place. It is essential that the defendant is served promptly to ensure they have enough time to prepare for the hearing. The process of service is documented, and proof of service is filed with the court, confirming that the defendant has been officially notified. If the police can’t serve your abuser/harasser in time, your two-party hearing will have to be continued.

The Two-Party Hearing:
A Fair Chance to Be Heard

Following an ex-parte hearing, a two-party hearing is scheduled, which is a crucial stage in the restraining order process. This is the opportunity for both the you and your abuser/harasser to present your cases in front of a judge. At this hearing, unlike the ex-parte hearing, the respondent—the person the restraining order is against—will be present and can respond to the allegations made against them. This is a basic aspect of due process, ensuring that both sides have a chance to be heard and present evidence.


During the two-party hearing, the judge will hear both sides. You’ll be asked to present your case, detailing the reasons for your request. This might involve sharing sensitive information about the abuse or harassment you’ve experienced. The defendant—the person you’re seeking the order against—will also have a chance to speak. This can be intimidating, but remember, the court is there to ensure your safety.


It’s crucial to stay focused on the facts during the hearing. Present your evidence clearly, and answer any questions the judge may have directly and honestly. The judge will use the information provided to determine whether a restraining order should be granted and, if so, what terms it should include. If you have any concerns about facing the defendant in court, inform the court personnel, who can provide support and advocate on your behalf.

Preparation is Key

Before your court date, prepare yourself. Review the events and evidence you have, and think about what you want to say. It’s often a good idea to write it down in advance. On the day of the hearing, dress in a manner that shows respect for the court. Arrive early to find your courtroom and to have a moment to collect your thoughts. You may also want to bring a friend or family member for support.


When you’re in front of the judge, be concise and to the point. This is not the time for long stories—just the facts that pertain to the need for the restraining order. And remember, while the court setting can be stressful, remaining calm and collected will help you communicate more effectively.

Enforcement of a
Restraining Order

If a restraining order is granted, it’s the responsibility of law enforcement to enforce it. You will receive a copy of the order; make sure to keep it with you at all times. If the restrained person violates the order, contact the police immediately. Violations are taken seriously and can lead to criminal charges, and in some cases, jail time. It’s also important to document any violation, as it will serve as evidence if future legal action is necessary.


You play an essential role in the enforcement of the order. While the police are there to help, they can only act on what they know. Reporting every violation is critical—it establishes a pattern of behavior should you ever need to return to court. It also helps the legal system protect you to the fullest extent of the law.

Handling Violations

Knowing what to do if the Restraining Order is violated can be just as important as obtaining the order itself. If the person you have the order against tries to contact you—whether through a phone call, text message, or physical presence—document the interaction and alert the authorities. It’s not just a violation of a civil court order; it’s a criminal offense.


Each instance of contact or attempted contact should be reported, even if it seems minor. This information can be crucial if you need to go to court.

If a person violates a restraining order, they’re not just defying the person who sought protection; they’re defying the court’s authority. This can lead to criminal charges and is considered a serious offense. If convicted, the restrained person could face penalties including:

  • fines,
  • community service, or
  • even jail time.

Violations should be reported immediately to law enforcement, as they are equipped to handle such transgressions under the law.

Understanding your rights and responsibilities, whether you’re the protected or restrained person, is crucial. This section breaks down what each party can expect legally.

Protections Granted and Their Boundaries

When a restraining order is in place, you have the right to legal safety measures, which may include the restrained person being ordered not to contact or come near you. However, the protective order has limitations. A Harassment Prevention Order cannot resolve disputes related to child custody or property, nor does it automatically change the legal status of shared financial responsibilities or property ownership. In some cases, an Abuse Prevention can address such issues.

Responsibilities of the Restrained Person

When a restraining order is nearing its expiration and the threat of harm still exists, petitioners have the option to request an extension of the order. This process involves returning to court and demonstrating to a judge that the need for continued protection persists. If you want to extend the order, you need to show up to court on the day the order is set to expire. That date is on the order itself. You will then go before the judge and explain why you are requesting an extension. This may include describing any new incidents of:

  • abuse,
  • threats, or
  • harassment,

or explaining the ongoing fear of harm from the defendant.


Even if there have been no recent incidents, the petitioner can argue that the lack of issues is due to the effectiveness of the restraining order and that there’s a reasonable concern that the abusive behavior will resume if the order is not extended.

Responding Appropriately to a Restraining Order

If you are the subject of a restraining order, it’s important to understand how to respond legally. Do not contact the protected person directly or indirectly if the order prohibits it. Comply with all the conditions set by the order. If you believe the order is unfounded, you can make your case in court, typically during a hearing scheduled shortly after the temporary order is issued. Engaging a lawyer is advisable to navigate the legal system and understand the full scope of your responsibilities under the order.

Each party must understand their legal rights and responsibilities to ensure the restraining order serves its intended purpose of protection and justice. For both the protected and restrained persons, knowing what the law entails can guide their actions and responses accordingly. Legal counsel can provide tailored advice to each individual’s circumstances, ensuring they navigate these legal waters appropriately.

Each party must understand their legal rights and responsibilities to ensure the restraining order serves its intended purpose of protection and justice. For both the protected and restrained persons, knowing what the law entails can guide their actions and responses accordingly. Legal counsel can provide tailored advice to each individual’s circumstances, ensuring they navigate these legal waters appropriately.

Extending the Restraining Order

Your Restraining Order has an expiration date. If you want to extend it past that date, you need to go to court on that expiration day to ask for an extension. It’s important to gather any recent evidence of threats or incidents that show you still need protection. This could include things like:

  • text messages,
  • emails, or
  • witness statements.


You’ll have a hearing that same day.

At the hearing, you’ll need to explain to the judge why the restraining order should be extended. This means you’ll need to present your evidence, provide testimony, and possibly bring witnesses who can support your case. The goal is to show the judge that you still face a significant threat and that extending the order is necessary for your safety. It’s a good idea to be as detailed and clear as possible in your explanations. If the judge is convinced that an extension is needed, your restraining order will be extended, ensuring you remain protected.

Dropping the Restraining Order

If you decide that you no longer need the protection of a Restraining Order, you have the right to request that it be dropped or dismissed. This process begins by filing a formal request with the same court where the order was originally issued. The petitioner must complete the necessary paperwork, which typically includes a form stating their desire to dissolve the order and sometimes a written statement explaining their reasons for this decision.


It’s important for you to understand that dropping a Restraining Order is a significant legal action. You should consider whether any changes in your situation genuinely warrant the dismissal of the order and whether you feel safe without the legal protection it offers. It’s not uncommon for the court to request a hearing to discuss your reasons for wanting to drop the order to ensure your safety is not at risk.

During a hearing to drop a restraining order, the judge will assess your request and ensure that it is made voluntarily and without pressure or coercion from the respondent or anyone else. The judge will likely ask questions to confirm your reasons and to ensure that you are making an informed decision that is in your best interest.


Once the judge is satisfied with your reasons and decision, they will issue an order to dissolve the Restraining Order. It’s essential to note that once a Restraining Order is dropped, it cannot be reinstated on the basis of the original petition; if protection is needed again in the future, the petitioner would have to start the process anew. After the order is dissolved, law enforcement agencies are notified so that the order is no longer enforced.

Practical Advice and Resources

When facing the process of obtaining or dealing with a restraining order, practical advice and access to resources can make a significant difference. This section aims to provide that guidance.

Safety Planning and Precautions

Staying Safe with a Restraining Order

Having a Restraining Order in place is a critical step toward safety, but it’s also important to have a personal safety plan. This can include changing daily routines, securing your home, and informing trusted friends or family about the situation. Remember, a restraining order is a part of a larger safety strategy and should be accompanied by practical actions you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Contacting Police and Emergency Services

In the event that you feel your safety is compromised or if the restraining order is violated, do not hesitate to contact the police or emergency services. They are there to help and provide immediate assistance. Keep a record of any incidents that occur, as they can be important if legal actions are necessary. Always keep a copy of the restraining order with you, as it will help law enforcement take the appropriate action quickly.

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.

Support Systems and Resources in Massachusetts

Massachusetts offers a variety of support organizations and resources for those dealing with abuse and seeking restraining orders. These include advocacy groups, shelters, hotlines, and counseling services that understand the sensitive nature of your situation. These resources can provide not only immediate support but also long-term assistance for those looking to rebuild their lives after an abusive relationship.

Conclusion: Understanding and Navigating Restraining Orders

In summary, Restraining Orders are a vital component of Massachusetts’ legal system, providing protection and peace of mind to those facing threatening situations. From the swift action of an ex-parte hearing to the comprehensive review at a two-party hearing, the system is designed to ensure that your safety is protected with due diligence. Whether it’s a 209A Protective Order, a 258E Harassment Prevention Order, or any other specialized order, understanding the legal processes, rights, and responsibilities associated with these orders is paramount.

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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