A legal motion is used to ask a judge to take a specific action. Legal motions are used for many different kinds of relief. Writing and then formatting a legal motion is best done by a legal professional. Becoming familiar with the elements of legal motions and legal formatting assists you in being proactive in your legal needs.
The Different Types of Legal Motions and Jurisdiction
Review the types of courts to determine where you motion should be filed as there are several different types -- both civil and criminal. Information provided herein is regarding civil court. Most courts have websites and you should familiarize yourself with the website for the court of jurisdiction as it my contain local rules and procedures.
Sources for Correctly Formatting a Legal Motion
If you hire a lawyer your motion will be formatted for you by the attorney. If you contract with one of the online services such as Legal Zoom, your motion will also be formatted for you. Some courts, such as the Superior Courts of California, have templates on their website which are already correctly formatted. There are also books available from companies such as the Nolo Press which contain a CD of documents including formatted motions. If you are determined to bypass all of these resources there are instructions on the Internet which will help format your motion.
Formatting a Legal Motion
A legal motion for a civil action is actually a set of motion papers which contain four major sections: Notice of Motion, Affidavit in Support, Memorandum of Law and Service. Your first choice should always be to contract a licensed attorney or legal service of some kind to write and correctly format your legal motion.
Notice of Motion
The Notice of Motion usually begins with the caption that includes the court of jurisdiction, the docket number, and below the docket number, "Notice of Motion." It is usual to then write, "Please take Notice that the undersigned will bring a motion for (what you are asking the court for or to do)." Read the Local Rules of Civil Procedure to understand this section. You must include a signature line and you must sign this motion.
Affidavit in Support
Write "Affidavit in Support" below the caption and docket number (following what you wrote on the motion). The Affidavit should, in short paragraphs that are numbered, explain why you believe you are entitled for the relief you are asking for. Exhibits can be attached to this affidavit.
Memorandum of Law
Not every legal motion requires a Memorandum of Law to support your motion. If you expect a dispute to arise over your motion then you should consider including this section. The Memorandum of Law should be titled and captioned, as are the other sections. The Memorandum of Law contains citations in support of your motion. Sometimes this section also includes a Statement of Undisputed Facts.
A copy of all your motion papers that you will file are to be served on the other party or the other party's attorneys (if you know who the attorney is). You must advise the Court that you have processed the service.
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