How to Write a Request for Continuance

By Kristen Harris
A court room gavel.
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When something unexpected happens, you may need to postpone even your most serious commitments. If you’re involved in a court case and you want to reschedule a court date due to an emergency, for convenience or as part of your legal strategy, follow your local court procedures and file the required documents as soon as possible.

Contents of Request for Continuance

When writing a request for a continuance, include your name, the case name and number, what you are requesting and why. State the date of the currently scheduled court hearing and clearly request a new date. Give the reasons for your request. Specify if you contacted the other parties or their attorneys and whether they agree to a continuance. You may include proof of your reason for the request, such as a copy of an obituary of a family member, airplane tickets or documentation of an upcoming medical procedure. This basic information should be included in all requests for a continuance of a court hearing, but the exact format and procedure depends on the requirements of the particular court.

Court-Specific Requirements

Procedures for requests for continuance vary among states, courts and even judges. For instructions regarding continuances, review the court notice you received ordering you to be in court on a certain date. Call the court clerk to ask about the procedures. Typically a mere phone call will not be enough to change a court date, although it may be possible. You can look on the state’s website for rules and forms. Some courts have specific continuance request forms, while other courts have generic motion forms on which you can write your request for a continuance. Most courts prefer that you first seek consent of the other parties, and some states require it. When in doubt about a particular court's procedure, assume that you need to prepare and file a formal written request as soon as possible. File it in the same way you have filed other court documents in the case and send copies to all parties.

Acceptable Reasons for Continuance

Acceptable reasons for a continuance depend on the nature of the court event. Courts may not require a reason to reschedule a routine court date, such as a conference on the status of the case or a hearing on a motion, as long as a continuance would not adversely affect another party. However, to reschedule a trial, a court will likely require good cause. For example, California Rules of Court emphasize that trial continuances are disfavored and will only be granted for good cause such as the unavailability of a party, an attorney, or a witnesses due to death, illness or other excusable circumstance.

Timing of Request

Court rules usually specify how close to a court date you can ask for a continuance, but for true emergencies or unusual circumstances, it is still worth asking even if you've missed that deadline. If your request is too close to the court date and you do not have a valid reason that you could not have known about sooner, like a death or sudden illness, a judge may not grant the continuance even if the other parties agree to your request. If you have asked for several continuances in the same case, the judge may not be inclined to grant another one.

About the Author

Based in the Hartford, Conn.-area, Kristen Harris has been a practicing attorney for 18 years. She writes about business topics, civil litigation, family law, criminal law, probate and estates, contracts, health care and education law.