What Are the Differences Between a Stay Away Order and a Restraining Order?

File a Restraining Order What Are the Differences Between a Stay Away Order and a Restraining Order?

What Are the Differences Between a Stay Away Order and a Restraining Order?

If you are being stalked or harassed, you might be advised to get a . Is there a difference between the two? Are they just two terms for the same thing?

Understanding  can help you keep you and your family safe and let you know what to talk to a lawyer or court about. DoNotPay can help you understand how restraining orders work, learn how to get one, and know what proof you need (and how much it costs).

What is the Difference Between the Two?

Both terms are sometimes used interchangeably and, confusing, the term "protective order" might also be used. You might also hear "no contact" orders. The truth is that they are very similar things and stay-away orders are sometimes defined as a subset of the restraining order.

To make things worse, they are sometimes used a little bit differently. The key differences are:

  • Stay away orders are always temporary. Restraining orders can be temporary or permanent but typically last longer. The purpose of a stay-away order is usually to keep parties separated until the case goes to court.
  • A stay-away order only tells the person not to get close to you. A restraining order can require a variety of other things as determined by the court.

Stay-away orders are essentially a tool to prevent physical violence, and are typically used only until fault can be determined and, potentially, the offender sentenced to jail time or probation.

A restraining order can also:

  1. Require the person to cease certain behavior.
  2. Contain a "no contact" provision, which means they can't contact you at all, by any means.
  3. Order the person to pay you temporary child support, continue mortgage or rent payments, etc.
  4. Give you sole use of their home or car
  5. Order the person to pay your medical bills, property damage, etc.
  6. In some places, confiscate their firearms.
  7. Order the person to get substance abuse counseling, therapy, etc.
  8. Establish rules to protect children.
  9. In some states, order the person to give up custody of any pets to you.

In other words, a stay-away order is a much narrower thing that deals entirely with a physical presence. A restraining order covers more and often has stronger penalties for violation.

Which Should You Request From a Court?

Some jurisdictions, such as California, have specific definitions of the two. For example, in California, a stay away order is specifically to keep the accused perpetrator of a crime, when out on bail, from harassing or intimidating the victim. Other states, such as Texas or Florida have no specific definitions but typically similarly use them.

Check how DoNotPay can help you in different states:

TexasCaliforniaNew York
IllinoisNorth CarolinaOhio
GeorgiaVirginiaWashington State
ColoradoNew JerseyPennsylvania
South CarolinaMinnesotaAlabama
Washington DCKansasKentucky
LouisianaNew MexicoIdaho
Rhode IslandIowaNew Hampshire

In the vast majority of cases, you are looking to get a restraining order, which might cover any of the things listed above. A restraining order automatically includes a stay-away order and is more comprehensive.

However, in some cases somebody may be able to get a stay-away order if the law does not allow them to get a restraining order.

How to Get a Stay Away Order

If you are the victim of a crime and the perpetrator is released on bail, many courts will automatically put a stay-away order in place. You don't have to do anything. This is a criminal stay-away order, which lasts until the case is over. If they are found not guilty, it ends. This means you may need to file for a civil stay away order as well. The process depends on where you are, but in most cases, you will need to;

  1. Find out if you are eligible in your state. Some states have rules.
  2. Find out which court has jurisdiction. You may have to file in a different court if the person is your spouse or a family member than if they are a stranger. For example, in Virginia, petitions against families go to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (i.e., family court), and others go to the General District Court.
  3. Gather any proof you have of abuse, including pictures of injuries, letters, emails or texts containing harassment or threats, etc.
  4. File a petition in the appropriate court. In most states, you can complete the forms online, but you typically have to go to a courthouse in person. If the courthouse is closed, call the police. You will need to bring personal identification and sign the forms in front of the clerk.

Again, in most cases you should request a restraining order as it can give you other advantages. In some cases, you may not get a restraining order and may need to appeal and/or file a new petition.

Get a Stay Away Order With the Help of DoNotPay

While we are not a court and can't create a restraining order for you, we can help you avoid the expense of hiring a lawyer and the time spent doing research on state laws. This process can be frustrating and lengthy, particularly if you feel as if you are in danger.

We can help you get the forms you need, get together the documents, and find the rules in your state.

How to apply for a restraining order with the help of DoNotPay:

  1. Search for relationship protection on DoNotPay.


  2. Answer a few easy questions on our File a Restraining Order product.


  3. Submit the form and you’re done!


And that’s it! DoNotPay will compile for you the forms you need to fill out and give you detailed instructions for how to file for a restraining order in your jurisdiction. Stay safe!

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