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

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2021

File a motion for a temporary order.

It can take months to get a judgment, the final decision, in your case. If you need the judge to make an order about something right away, you can file a motion for a temporary order. A motion for a temporary order 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:

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.

How do I file a motion for temporary orders?

Call the court that is handling your case.

Ask to talk to someone about filing your motion.

Tell them about the motion you need to file. Tell them if it is an emergency. Ask:

  1. How do I file my motion for a temporary order?
  2. What do I need to do to schedule a hearing on my motion?
  3. Do I need to "serve" or give notice of the hearing to the other party?

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.

How do I serve a motion for a temporary order?

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.  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 the other party 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 first.

If you were able to work out an agreement before you see the judge

If you can work out an agreement, you go into the courtroom to ask the judge to approve it.

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 and you will get a copy 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 another court order changes it or until you get a decision at the end of the case. Sometimes temporary orders last a long time.

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