Find out how harassment prevention orders work

Chapter 258E allows a judge to issue a variety of types of court orders. A judge can order the defendant to not abuse or harass you, not contact you in any way, to stay away from your home or work, and/or to pay you money.

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What can I request under a harassment prevention order?

You can request that the defendant be ordered not to abuse or harass you. This means that the defendant won’t:

  • Physically assault or threaten you
  • Do anything that makes you reasonably fear that the defendant might cause you physical harm
  • Use force or a threat of any kind to make you have sex unwillingly  
  • Commit any act against you that would be one of the crimes listed above

You can request that the defendant be ordered to have no contact with you. This means that the defendant:

  • Must stay a specific number of feet/yards away from you. The distance that the defendant must remain away from you is listed on the order.
  • Can’t contact you in any way. This includes, but isn’t limited to, phone calls, text messages, emails, gifts and contact through friends, relatives, neighbors or anyone else, sending or posting messages on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site, unless specifically allowed in the order.
  • Leave a place as quickly as possible if you’re already at a place and the defendant comes to that same location

You can request that the defendant be ordered to stay away from your work. This means the defendant:

  • Must stay away from the place where you work as long as the order is in effect, even if you aren’t there at the time

You can request that the defendant be ordered to pay certain money. This means the defendant:

  • Can be ordered to pay for costs related to the harassment, such as medical bills, lost wages, or money for the cost of changing locks

You can request that your home, work, and/or school address not appear on the order. This means:

  • If the defendant doesn’t know your current home, work or school address(s), you can request that these addresses be kept confidential. This information would only be available to the court, the police, the district attorney, or others specifically allowed by you or the court. In all cases, this information isn’t available to the public.

Can I request a harassment prevention order without telling the defendant?

The court may issue a harassment prevention order without the defendant having notice if there’s a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of harassment. This is called an ex parte order. You’ll file a complaint form that includes an affidavit (described below), and a hearing is held right away without letting the defendant know. You’ll either speak to the judge in person or, if there isn’t a judge in the courthouse when you’re there, by phone. The court can issue an ex parte order that can last up to 10 business days. The court will schedule a hearing within 10 business days and then notify the defendant about the ex parte order. The defendant has a right to attend that hearing to argue that all or part of the order should not be continued. At that hearing, often referred to as the 10-day hearing, the judge will hear from you and the defendant, if the defendant appears.

The judge may also decide not to issue an ex parte order at that time. If the judge doesn’t think that there is a basis to grant a harassment prevention order, the request will be denied. If the judge thinks that there isn’t a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse, the request may be put off, and a hearing will be set up at a later time. The defendant will be given notice of that hearing and have the right to attend that hearing. At this hearing, both you and the defendant will have the right to tell the court why a harassment prevention order should or shouldn’t issue. If the judge doesn’t issue an ex parte order but wants to set up a hearing where the defendant will be present, you may decide not to go forward with your complaint and ask that the hearing not be scheduled.

How long does the order last?

The first order you get, if the defendant isn’t present, is only good until you have a court hearing where the defendant has an opportunity to tell their side of the story. This is scheduled within 10 business days, so it’s commonly called a 10-day hearing, but it may be in less than 10 days. The judge will tell you when this hearing will be held when they issue the first order. The date of this hearing will also be on the order.

If you get an emergency order when the court isn’t in session from a judge over the phone and the defendant is also arrested, the defendant might be at the same court where you go to get the order extended. In that case, the judge will hold a hearing with both you and the defendant present and may grant an order for up to a year.

What if I want to change or end the order?

A harassment prevention order is a court order. That means that only a judge can change the order. The person who requested the order can’t change or end the order without going back to court. Even if the plaintiff seems to request or allow conduct forbidden by the order, the defendant will be in violation of the harassment prevention order unless a judge has changed it.

If you want to change or end the order, you can go to the same court that issued the order Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m. to ask the judge to change or end the order. The clerk’s office can help you file documents to make this request.

If you want to renew the order, you’ll need to go back to court on the return/expiration date on the order, and ask for the order to be renewed, otherwise the order will expire.

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