To change a court date, you must get a judge's permission. You ask the judge's permission by filing a motion. This motion asks the judge to reschedule a court date. If the new court date is after the current one, it is called a continuance.
Filing a motion does not mean you don't have to go to court. While it is sometimes possible for a judge to grant a Motion to Continue without you having to appear in court, this is rare. Most likely, you still must go to court to ask the judge to change the court date. Then you will have to come to the new court date.
The judge has complete control over whether or not to grant the motion.
Time for filing a Motion to Continue
It is best to file your motion as soon as you know that you have a problem with a date or deadline. Judges do not like last minute changes to dates.
It also needs to be filed early enough for the court to schedule a hearing on the motion before the actual court date itself, so it is best to file as soon as you can.
If there are more than 7 days until your court date, you can use the following program to help you fill out the forms you need:
Learn more about Preparing, filing, and presenting motions in court.
Reasons for changing a court date
You will need a good reason for why you cannot make your court date. Even then, a judge may or may not agree to grant your motion.
Some common reasons for a Motion to Continue are:
- You cannot possibly make it to court that day because you are in the hospital, out of town, in jail or prison, or attending another court hearing at that time;
- You need more time to hire an attorney; or
- A vital witness or piece of evidence will not be available then.
If you are asking for a continuance based on a missing piece of evidence or witness, you must sign an affidavit saying that:
- You have tried to obtain the evidence, or have not had enough time to do so;
- What the evidence would show if you had it;
- If it is a witness, where the witness lives; and
- That if further time is given the evidence can be produced.
Any other supporting documents that you have, such as a doctor's note if you are asking for a delay because of illness, should be attached to the copies of your Motion to Continue.
Again, it's the judge who decides whether or not your reason is good enough to change the court date.
Reasons not to file a Motion to Continue
You should not file a Motion to Continue if the hearing date you wish to continue has already passed. In this case, you may have had a default judgment entered against you if you are the defendant. You can file a Motion to Vacate a Default Judgment. If you are the plaintiff, the case might have been dismissed. If your case was dismissed, you will need to refile it.
If you have 7 days or fewer until the court date, you don't have enough time to contact the other side about the hearing. You should contact the judge's clerk and ask them what you should do. They may want you to still file your Motion to Continue, or they may tell you it's too late.
At the very least, it shows the judge that you did not forget about the court date and tried to change it.
Do I need the other side's permission to get a Motion to Continue?
No. A judge is more likely to give permission if the other side agrees. If they agree, you should have them put it in writing. You should tell the judge about the agreement.
Contact your judge's clerk for any special instructions
Most courts have their own set of rules called "local rules" that include specific requirements for filing motions. Similarly, judges sometimes have special instructions for motions in their courtroom. These instructions are called "standing orders."
You should contact your judge's clerk to see if your judge has any special instructions for filing a Motion to Continue. You should follow whatever those instructions are.
The Motion to Continue is approved
If your motion is approved, your deadline or appearance date will be reset to the date you have requested, and the suit will continue as normal.
The Motion to Continue is denied
If your motion is not approved, you will be expected to go to the court dates or follow the deadlines that were already set.
If you do not follow these court dates or deadlines, you may receive a default judgment against you. This will allow the other side to win and enforce any judgment they receive against you automatically.
Updated: January 2017