Protection orders during COVID-19

Frequently asked questions about applications, hearings, and available resources during COVID-19.

Protection orders include:  

  • Emergency abuse prevention orders (also called restraining orders) 
  • Harassment prevention orders
  • Extreme risk protection orders

Table of Contents


How do I get a protection order during court business hours?

If you need a protection order between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., you should call your local court. You can find phone numbers for the courts that serve your city or town through the courthouse locator on The court will collect your information and arrange an immediate hearing with a judge by video or phone. You can also bring your application to the court in person or contact the police directly.

How do I get a protection order when the court is closed?

If you need a protection order outside of court hours, you should call your police department. If an order is issued, the court will tell you the date and time for a follow up hearing after the defendant is given notice.

What information do I need to give the court during the application process for a protection order?

You will be asked for information to complete the application package for the type of protection order you’re asking for. This may include information like: 

  • The nature of your relationship with the defendant 
  • Contact information for you and the defendant 
  • The nature of the abuse or harassment that happened 
  • Whether or not you or the defendant are under 18 
  • Whether or not the defendant has any guns, ammunition, firearms identification cards, and/or a license to carry 
  • What you are asking the judge to order

I have a protection order that has a two-party hearing scheduled. How do I know if it will be in person or virtual?

Hearings may be in person or virtual (by phone or by videoconference). The court will let you know if you should appear in person or virtually. They may contact you by mail, email, or phone. They will also let the other parties in your case know if the hearing will be in person or virtual.

Do I have to participate in follow up hearings about my protection order?

If you want the current protection order to continue, you must participate in the hearing on the date and time listed in the notice. All protection orders that are due to expire will stay in effect until the matter is heard by a judge on the scheduled hearing date. The court will tell you about any future in person or virtual hearing dates.

If my hearing is in person, can I bring my cellphone?

Yes. During COVID-19, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) is allowing parties to bring their cellphones with them into courthouses.

What do I need to bring or have with me for the hearing?

Whether you are having an in person or virtual hearing, you should share anything you think is relevant that will help the judge make a decision. This could include text messages, voicemails, or photos. Contact the court if you want to present evidence through a witness, with documents, or with photos. At the hearing, the judge or judicial officer will decide if any witnesses will be allowed to testify.

I need an interpreter. What do I do?

To request an interpreter, contact the court. You can also let court staff know that you will need an interpreter during the application process.

Who is allowed to be in the courtroom for protection order hearings during COVID-19?

Court personnel, lawyers, parties, witnesses, advocates, and other people the judge decides are necessary can be present in a courtroom for in person proceedings. The judge may also allow members of the public, including the “news media”, to access the proceeding, which may include allowing them to sit in the courtroom, as long as there is enough space for them to social distance.

My protection order hearing will be virtual. Who else will be on the phone or video call?

All the people who would typically be present in a courtroom will also participate in virtual hearings. Members of the public can attend court hearings virtually unless there is a statute, rule, or order that prohibits it.

My protection order hearing is scheduled to be in person, but I have concerns about COVID-19. How can I request a virtual hearing instead?

Judges may let a participant (lawyer, party, or witness) appear virtually while other participants appear in person. To request to appear virtually, please call the court to ask how you should make this request. You may need to ask the clerk or register or file a motion with the judge.

Where can I find more information about available resources and help?

There are many agencies that can help you.  

  • Community based advocacy or crisis agencies can connect you with advocates who offer free and confidential services. 
  • SAFEPLAN Advocates are court-based and can help with restraining order applications. 
  • Victim Witness Advocates work for the local District Attorney’s Office and can answer questions about any pending criminal matters that involve violence against you. 
  • Child Witness to Violence programs can help if you are concerned about your child(ren)’s behavior related to the effect of violence or stress at home.  
  • Intimate Partner Abuse Education Programs can help people who want to change their pattern of abusive behavior find the support they need to get their lives back on track.  

Please visit the Court System Response to COVID Domestic and Sexual Violence webpage for more information.

Date published: October 23, 2020
Last updated: December 31, 2021

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