How to File a Motion for Reconsideration

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Although by definition a motion for reconsideration asks a judge to reconsider a ruling he made in a court order, the laws in almost every state prohibit filing one just because you disagree with the judge's opinion. A motion for reconsideration usually can only be filed if the judge made a factual mistake, such as using the wrong income for a parent in child support calculations, or if he failed to consider pivotal evidence. It's not an opportunity to retry the original motion, and almost invariably the motion goes back to the same judge who heard your matter the first time.

Go to the courthouse to purchase an audio recording of the initial hearing. You will need to cite the judge's specific words regarding the part of his order you think is in error, especially if he explained his reasoning. Have a transcript made of the recording so you can use the written pages as an evidentiary exhibit, if necessary. However, in most states, you can only use transcripts prepared by a court-approved transcriber as exhibits. Don't listen to the recording and type the transcript yourself.

Prepare a certification, explaining in writing why you think the judge erred. If he made a decision that contradicts your state's statutes, you will need to quote the exact statute. If you can find an example in case law where another judge decided a similar matter differently, cite that as well. If the judge made a factual mistake, explain why and support it with proof. For instance, if he used the wrong income figures in a child support calculation, attach copies of tax returns giving the correct income. If applicable, attach the transcript pages well. Sign the certification and have it notarized.

File the notice of motion and your certification with the court that heard the original motion. Serve your adversary with a copy immediately, either by process server or by certified mail. All states have requirements as to how long you have to accomplish this after you receive a signed copy of the judge's original order, the one you are disputing. As of 2011, in New Jersey, this time period is 20 days, but in Hawaii it can be as short as 10 days and in Arizona it is only 15 days.


  • Most judges do not appreciate receiving motions for reconsideration. They may see it as a litigant trying to rehash the same issues repeatedly, hoping for a better result. You're also pointing out to the judge that he made a mistake. It's human nature to resent that, and judges are human. Motions for reconsideration can be very difficult to win.


  • If you miss the deadline for filing a motion for reconsideration in your state, all is not necessarily lost. You may still file an appeal with your state's appellate court. This is usually expensive, however, and appellate court procedures are much more strict. If you don't want to go back in front of the same judge who erred the first time, most states will allow you to go directly to the appellate court for reconsideration instead.


About the Author

Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.

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