A Petition for Rule to Show Cause may be used by a person who says that another person has not followed a court order or judgment. The person who files the petition is called the petitioner; The other person is called the respondent.
The petition will:
- Say which order or judgment has not been followed
- Explain what the petitioner thinks the respondent did or did not do
A violation of a court order is a serious matter. The punishment can range from warnings to fines, and even jail.
If you received a Petition for Rule to Show Cause
If you got a Petition for Rule to Show Cause, you also should receive a Notice of Motion. The Notice of Motion tells you the court date, time, and location.
A continuance means you are asking the court for more time. If you have very little money, tell the judge that you don't have money to pay a lawyer, and ask the judge to appoint a lawyer for you.
The judge may appoint a lawyer to help you. If the judge denies your request, you should be prepared to represent yourself. The judge may suggest that you try to find a lawyer at a legal aid program in your area. If you have already tried, then tell the judge which program you have already contacted.
Responding in writing
The judge may require you to file a written response to the Petition for Rule to Show Cause.
Even if the judge does not require a written response from you, it may help your case to file one. Explain in your response why you think you did not violate the court order.
If you did violate the court order, your response should explain why the violation was not on purpose. If you are now following the order, then put that in your response, too.
If the petition makes statements that are false, your response should explain why the petition is false.
If you ask the judge for a continuance to file a written response, the court may give you extra time to write your response.
Filing your written response
Take your response and 3 copies to the circuit clerk in the county where the petition was filed. The Notice of Motion attached to the petition will tell you the name and address of the courthouse where the case is pending.
Hand the original response and 3 copies to the clerk. The clerk will stamp all copies, keep the original, and give the other three copies back to you.
Send a copy of your response to the petitioner
You must send your response to the other party's address listed on the petition. If the other party has a lawyer, you must send a copy of the response to the lawyer.
Keep the remaining two copies for yourself.
Settling the case before the hearing
Depending on the situation, you may want to try to settle the case with the other party. You can also ask the judge if they will do a pretrial conference to see if the matter can be resolved before a hearing.
If the case is not settled, the judge will hold a hearing.
At the hearing
Go to court on the hearing date. Dress like you would for an important business meeting (suit, tie, dress pants, etc.).
Get to court about 15 minutes before the start of the hearing. When you arrive, sign in with the clerk. The clerk will be sitting to the right of the judge.
After you check in, sit in the back of the courtroom and wait for your case to be called.
Take these things with you to court:
- A copy of the judgment or order that the other party claims you violated
- The Petition for Rule to Show Cause and Notice of Motion that you received from the other party
- Your response to the Petition for Rule to Show Cause that you filed
When your case is called, go to the front of the courtroom, say your name to the judge, and say that you are the respondent. Then, you and the petitioner will both have the opportunity to present your evidence and argue your case.
If you did not obey all the terms of the court order but tried your best, you should describe your efforts to follow the order, and ask the judge to take your efforts into account. If you did not follow the court order for a good reason, you should explain this to the judge.
If the judge decides you violated the order or judgment
A violation of a court order or judgment can lead to a judge holding you in contempt of court. The punishment for contempt of court can range from warnings to fines, to going to jail.
However, even if you're in contempt of court because you could have followed the order but didn't, you won't always go to jail. Jail is usually a last resort after other methods of getting you to follow the order have failed. Also, you can't be jailed unless the judge gives you a way to pay money to be let out.
If you violated the court order in the past, but you are following it now, you may be able to avoid being punished.