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Massachusetts Protective Orders Laws

Protective orders, commonly known as "restraining orders," are intended to protect victims of abuse, stalking, or harassment by requiring perpetrators to stay a certain distance away for a specified period of time. Such orders are primarily used by victims of domestic violence but may apply in other circumstances. Massachusetts protective orders are valid for a one-year period and may be renewed. A violation of the terms of a protective order can lead to prosecution punishable by fines and jail time.

This article provides a brief overview of protective orders laws in the state of Massachusetts.

Protective Orders in Massachusetts: At a Glance

Learn about Massachusetts' protective order laws in the chart below. You can also see Details on State Protective Order Laws and the links following this article for more details.

Code Section

Chapter 208 § 34C et seq. of the Massachusetts General Laws

Activity Addressed by Order

Enjoins contact with the victim; excludes a defendant from the victim's dwelling; suspends a firearms license; may limit on alcohol consumption by the defendant; the court may order the defendant to attend a batterer's treatment program; the defendant may also lose custody of a child and may be ordered to pay the person abused monetary compensation for losses suffered; compensatory losses shall include, but not be limited to, loss of earnings or support, costs for restoring utilities, out-of-pocket losses for injuries sustained, replacement costs for locks or personal property removed or destroyed, medical and moving expenses and reasonable attorney's fees; the defendant may also lose possession of a pet to the petitioner


Duration of Order

Protective orders are valid for a maximum of one year and may be extended by a court

Penalty for a Violation of Order

Violation of a protective order is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000, a maximum jail sentence of 2.5 years, or both; the court may also order appropriate treatment for the defendant

Who May Apply for Order?

A person suffering from abuse from an adult or minor family or household member may apply for a protective order; “family or household members" refers to persons who: are or were married to one another; are or were residing together in the same household; are or were related by blood or marriage; having a child in common regardless of whether they have ever married or lived together; or are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship, which shall be adjudged by district, probate or Boston municipal courts consideration of the following factors: the length of time of the relationship; the type of relationship; the frequency of interaction between the parties; and if the relationship has been terminated by either person, the length of time elapsed since the termination of the relationship

Can Fees Be Waived?

There is no filing fee in Massachusetts

Order Transmission to Law Enforcement

Certified copies of the order must be provided to the appropriate law enforcement agency; the agency will then deliver a copy of the order to the defendant; if the court vacates an order, it must notify the law enforcement agency in writing

Civil Liability for Violation of Order

In addition to criminal prosecution, the superior court, probate and family court, district court, or Boston municipal court may initiate civil contempt proceedings for a violation of its own court order

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for Protective Orders Laws

Get Help with a Protective Order Today

If someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you, there are resources available for you when you're ready. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for 24/7/365 support at 800-799-7233. If you've been abused or fear someone may abuse you in the near future, you may want to get a protective order.

Please contact a Massachusetts domestic violence attorney for help.

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