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In California, a "stay-away" order is just what it sounds like: Also known as a Criminal Protective Order (CPO), it's a court order that obliges one person to keep away from another. However, California courts also use something known as a Civil Restraining Order (CRO).

What's the difference?

In essence, the Criminal Protective Order is related to an actual criminal case. The prosecutor generally petitions the court for the CPO to protect the victim of a crime, such as domestic violence, from further contact with the accused. The judge issuing the order will always be a criminal court judge. As such, CPOs don't have quite the same breadth of control that Civil Restraining Orders do.

A Civil Restraining Order is something that the alleged victim of a domestic violence incident petitions the court directly. The request is usually handled in family court. Most of the time, requests for a temporary CRO are quickly granted to err on the side of safety. The judge may also make additional rulings that will affect the liberties of the accused until a full hearing can be held and the accused is given a chance to defend himself or herself.

Some of the additional limitations that can be imposed by a CRO include:

  • An order for the accused to vacate the family home
  • Orders to stay away from any children involved in the situation
  • Orders to stay away from extended family members who might be involved in the situation
  • An obligation to pay temporary child support
  • An obligation to maintain some or all of the household bills

Because they are separate orders, you can end up facing both if you're accused of domestic violence. To protect your rights, make sure that you completely understand your position, your obligation and what you can offer as a defense.

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