Do you have any idea how busy our courts are? You do if you’ve ever gotten divorced. You ask for your divorce to be set for a hearing, and you get a date for 3 months later, if you’re lucky. Then, and it never fails, opposing counsel requests a continuance because he is in a golf tournament, and the championship round happens to take place on the same date as your final hearing. Then, you are given another date 3 months down the line, and, you probably know the rest.
To a client, one of the most frustrating motions is a request for a continuance. This motion can be filed for almost any reason. The most common cause for a continuance is that counsel needs additional time to prepare for the case. New information can slow things down. Refusing to cooperate with discovery requests or to follow court orders can impact how quickly a divorce can be finished.
Sometimes, the court sets the date without consulting the lawyers first, and the date the judge selects on his own coincides with another hearing or trial a lawyer has to attend. Sometimes, either the judge or one of the lawyers decides that the scheduled date for the hearing would be a wonderful time for a vacation. Sometimes, clients request continuances because they want to slow down the divorce process.
If you are representing yourself, and you need a continuance, make sure you get your request in as soon as possible. Preparing for a case takes time and energy. If your ex has an attorney, and you don’t give him or her enough warning to spend her time on something else besides your ex’s case, your ex may request attorney’s fees for the lawyer’s wasted effort.
If you have a family emergency, attach any document that will tell the court that your request was based on genuine need. Documentation from your doctor, the local funeral director or a subpoena from another court requiring your presence on the same date are examples of good reasons to ask the court to postpone a hearing.
Simply write a letter to the court telling the judge that your hearing is currently scheduled for a certain time and date. Write a sentence explaining why you need additional time or another date, and attach any documents you have that prove why you need another date. Make sure your name and address and your ex’s name and address, or his attorney’s name and address are included in your letter, and take the letter to the judge’s office.
Tell his or her secretary that you are asking for a continuance so that she’ll know to direct it to the judge’s attention. She will also be able to tell you when you should expect to hear from the court. If you have filed as soon as you knew you would need a continuance, your chances of success are much better. The court’s concern would be making sure the other side is aware of your request and giving it a chance to object.