Getting your restraining order extended for longer

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Your restraining order only lasts until the date is set to expire. A hearing is scheduled on that same date. You must attend that hearing if you still need the restraining order.

Look at the last page of your restraining order. You will see a box that says “Expiration Date of Order.” This date is the same as the date of the next hearing about the order. There should also be a box that says “Next Hearing Date” with the date and time of that next hearing.

You can ask for your restraining order to be extended every time it is supposed to expire.

How long can my restraining order be extended?

This depends on how long you have already had the order. At every restraining order extension hearing, the judge can:

  • Extend your order until a certain date, which will also be the date of your next extension hearing, or
  • Not extend the order and allow it to expire at the end of the day.

If you have only been to court one time, your order is temporary (also called an “ex-parte” order). This type of order is usually in place for 10 business days until the 2nd hearing, known as the 10-day hearing, when the abusive person can come and ask the judge not to continue the order. When you go back to court for the 10-day hearing, the judge can only extend your order for up to 1 year. Learn more about what happens at the 2nd hearing.

If your order has already been extended after a 10-day hearing, it can be extended again for as long as the court believes you need the protection. This might be for another year, 2 years, 5 years, or permanently. You can tell the judge how long you think the order should be extended and why. It is up to the judge to decide whether to extend the order at all. If they do extend it, the judge decides how long to extend it for.

How does the judge decide whether to extend the order?

If your restraining order was already extended once, the judge can extend it for as long as you need protection from abuse. You must show the judge that you are still at risk of abuse and explain why you are still afraid of the abusive person.

How does the judge decide if you still need protection?

The judge considers information about why you are still at risk and still need protection from the abusive person. The judge needs to know why you are still afraid of the abusive person.

This may include whether anything new has happened since the last court hearing, or why you are still afraid even if there have not been any new incidents. Be sure to discuss why the abuse that you experienced makes you afraid of the abusive person.

Some of the things a judge can consider are:

  • The abusive person violated the order.
  • There is a criminal case involving you and the abusive person.
  • There is a custody case involving you and the abusive person.
  • You and the abusive person are likely to run into each other. This might be picking up and dropping off children for visits, or in places in your community like church or work.
Do I have to prove why I got the order in the first place every time I go back to court?

No. After the 10-day hearing, you do not need to prove why you got the order in the first place every time you go back to court. The judge should consider that a previous judge already decided why you needed the order in the first place. At extension hearings, they should only look at why you still need the protection of the order. The judge will probably look at your affidavit to understand why you got the order in the first place. But the defendant is not allowed to challenge the reasons for the original order if they already had a chance to in the past.

Can a judge grant an extension even if the abusive person obeyed the order?

Yes. You can tell the judge that the order is working. The fact that the defendant has not abused you since you got the order is not enough of a reason for a judge not to extend your order. The order is supposed to work and keep the abusive person away from you

How do I get a permanent restraining order?

Permanent orders are not very common. This is because many people don’t know they can ask for them. It is also because many judges are hesitant to give them.

You cannot get a permanent order at the first (ex-parte) or second (10-day) hearing. You can only get a permanent order if your order has been extended before.

A judge considers the same things to decide whether you need the order permanently. You should tell the judge why the risks to you and your fear are never going away. The longer the order has already been in place, the more likely it is that a judge will extend it permanently.

If the judge does not make the restraining order permanent, you can still ask for a “multi-year” restraining order, like one that lasts for 2 years or 3 years. You can also ask for a permanent order again at every extension hearing that follows.

What happens when my restraining order ends?

If your restraining order expires, all parts of the order expire with it.

This includes orders that the defendant:

  • not abuse you.
  • not contact you or your children.
  • stay away from your home, children’s school, or place of worship, etc., and
  • orders about custody, visitation, and child support.

If the judge did not extend your order and you still need an order for custody, support, or visitation, you might want to file a new case in the Probate & Family Court.

It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer about your current custody situation and how starting a case in family court could change that. For more information, see What can I do if I need a court order right away?

If the judge does not extend your order and you need a restraining order in the future, you can file a new 209A complaint. You do not have to wait a set amount of time before you file another complaint, but you need to show the judge that there are new reasons why you need the order. For example, the abuse has gotten worse or the abusive person did a new abusive thing.

How can I get help getting my restraining order extended?

Talk to an advocate or a lawyer for more information about getting your restraining order extended. To talk to an advocate, contact SAFEPLAN. Call your local legal services office to see if you can get free legal help.

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