Requesting a Continuance of a Family Court Hearing

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As usual, family court rules are different in all states and sometimes even within states – rules may be different from court-to-court.  However, there may be times where circumstance require that you ask the court for a continuance of your child custody hearing.  When those circumstances arise, your attorney can ask the court to grant a new hearing date.  If you are representing yourself, you can ask for a continuance.

Regardless of your circumstances, one of the following possible outcomes may occur:

  1. Your request is granted and a new hearing date is scheduled.
  2. Your request is denied and you must attend the scheduled hearing.
  3. The other side may object.  A continuance may be granted or denied after the court gives consideration to the objection.

Some court systems are very rigid and inflexible when it comes to granting continuances.  The family courts are packed with cases involving child custody and child support matters and deviation from the court docket is difficult to expect. Still others are so flexible that at least one continuance will often be granted simply by making a request of the clerk of courts.

Most courts will require a letter be mailed or faxed to the courthouse requesting the continuance.  The letter should included your case file number and docket number.  It should detail the reason for requesting a continuance of the custody or child support hearing.  Some examples that the court may consider legitimate reasons include:

  • Scheduling conflict.  You may have previously been schedule to be out of town for work and it’s a critical matter central to your job.
  • Late notification. You weren’t served with an appropriate amount of time to prepare for the hearing.
  • Your attorney has a scheduling conflict.  Your attorney already has a conference or hearing scheduled on the same day at the same time.
  • You want an opportunity to seek legal representation.  Perhaps you don’t have an attorney and the matter being heard involves issues which exceed your knowledge or ability to address.
  • Vacation previously scheduled.  Yes, believe it or not, the court may grant the continuance if you’ve previously planned and paid for a vacation with your family.

Depending upon the procedures of your court, there may exist a specific form to request a continuance that may be found at your local law library, a clerk of courts office, or your court’s online website.  Otherwise, you can write a letter that clearly and succinctly details your reasons for requesting the continuance.  In some situations, a phone call is all it would take to have your situation considered.

It is exceedingly helpful if the other party is agreeable to the continuance request.  You may find that your court requires the other party to agree before a continuance will be granted.   If they agree, usually each side can write a letter detailing the circumstances and mutual agreement to the request.  This makes it much easier for the court to make a decision to reschedule.

Regardless of your circumstances, be prepared for the possibility that your request may be denied.  If that occurs, you will simply have to make adjustments to your schedule and still prepare for the hearing accordingly.

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