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What can I do if I need a court order right away?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed October 2019

Motions for Temporary Orders

It can take months to get a judgment (final decision) in your case. If you need the judge to make an order about something right away, you can file a Motion for Temporary Orders. A Motion for Temporary Orders asks the court to deal with important issues while you wait for the final hearing. If you get a temporary order, it will last until the judge makes a new order or a final decision.

Some common motions are the

When you file a motion, you need to file:

  • A motion form.
    • You can also ask for it at the court clerk's office.
    • Write on the motion form what you want the court to Order.
  • An Affidavit.
    • In an affidavit you swear that everything you say is true.
    • Write the facts the judge needs to know about
      • what happened, and
      • when. 
  • A Proposed Order form.

There will be a hearing on your motion. Usually you can choose the date for the hearing. Ask the court clerk which days the court hears motions, and then pick a day that works for you.

Later, you might need to file a Motion to Modify a Temporary Order. You may need to file a motion if there is a very important change in your situation or if there is an emergency. Some judges do not permit filing motions to modify temporary orders while the case is going on.

Do I have to serve the Motion for Temporary Orders also?

Yes. Motions for Temporary Orders must also be served.

Serving the motion when you serve the complaint

Give the motion, affidavit, and proposed orders to the sheriff or constable to serve with the complaint.  Be sure to write down the time, date, and place of the hearing on the motion.

Serving a motion later

  1. Mail the motion, affidavit, and proposed orders to the other party. Be sure to write down the time, date, and place of the hearing on the motion. You must mail it at least 10 days before the hearing; or
  2. You or a friend can hand the motion, affidavit, and proposed orders to the person you are taking to court. You or your friend must hand him the papers at least 7 days before the hearing.

What happens at the motion hearing?

Go to court on the date of the motion hearing. Find the right courtroom. Tell the court room clerk that you are there. Follow their instructions.

The clerk may tell you to go to the Probation Department for "dispute intervention". This means that a Probation Officer who works for the court will talk to you and the other party to find out what is going on in the case.  The Probation Officer will usually try to help you and the other person work out an agreement about your motion.

Tell the Probation Department if you have a 209A protective order against the other person or if you are afraid. The Probation Officer should let you sit in a different room so that you do not have to sit with the person who abused you. The Probation Officer can walk back and forth between the two rooms to help you work out an agreement. Do not agree to anything that does not seem fair to you. You have the right to go in front of the judge if you cannot work out an agreement that you like.

If you can work out an agreement

If you can work out an agreement, you will need to go into the courtroom to ask the judge to approve it. The Probation Officer will explain when and how to do this.

If you cannot work out an agreement

If you do not work out an agreement, you will have a hearing. When you get into the courtroom, wait for the clerk to call your case. When the clerk calls your case, you and the other person will stand in front of the judge. The judge will give you both a chance to speak. The judge will then decide the Motion based on what the two of you say and the papers you filed.

The judge will write up a Temporary Order with the decision. The judge may write up the order the same day. If this happens, you will get a copy of it before you leave the court. If the judge writes the order later, you will get a copy in the mail.

The temporary order lasts until it is changed by another court order or until you get a decision at the end of the case.

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