Family court cases are notoriously stressful. After all, there’s so much riding on the outcome. The decisions made during a court case on divorce, custody, or asset division can impact your relationships with your children and your financial security for years to come. They can also be quite complex. There may be several mitigating factors to consider or disagreements between you and your former spouse.
As difficult as the process may be, it’s also vital for you to be actively involved. If you’re less present than your ex, or you haven’t chosen an attorney experienced in representing men in Florida, the judge may be more inclined to rule in your ex’s favor. However, attending the scheduled court date well-prepared and with the best lawyer at your disposal is not always convenient or even possible. This doesn’t mean you’re powerless to act, though. One legal tool at your disposal in such situations is filing a motion for a continuance.
But what exactly is a continuance and what are the acceptable reasons for continuance in family court? Let’s take a closer look at the issue.
What is a Continuance?
Put simply, a continuance is the process of postponing a court appointment until a later date. As straightforward as this idea is, it’s also important to understand that it’s still a serious action. Filing a motion for a continuance is not the same as rearranging a doctor’s appointment or coffee with a friend.
When you’re asking a judge to agree to a continuance, you’re effectively stating that your request is worthy of allowing various potential knock-on effects. Any delay prolongs the stress and possibly the legal costs of the other parties involved with the case. Not to mention it may put further pressure on your local court system that is already subject to heavy caseloads and significant delays.
As such, you should never assume that a continuance is guaranteed. It is purely at the discretion of the judge to allow a continuance to proceed following their review of the circumstances involved. If your reasons are insufficient, you may find that the case proceeds without your involvement, which may damage your outcome. This means seeking a continuance should be a last resort after you’ve exhausted other options to overcome the obstacles to your original date going ahead. That said, if a continuance is denied without good cause and your case proceeds without your ability to effectively represent your side of the situation, you may have the option to appeal the outcome. No matter what the events are, your best approach to addressing the situation is to collaborate closely with an attorney experienced with navigating the Florida court system.
What Are the Main Reasons for Continuance?
If a delay to your family court case is unavoidable, you can file a motion for continuance. The majority of judges will make their decision based on whether or not there is clearly good cause for the continuance to be issued. This generally means that there is an issue beyond your control that is significant enough to postpone. As such, you should ensure that your situation falls within one or more of the following main reasons for continuance.
SCHEDULING CONFLICTS. One of the most common reasons for asking for a continuance is a scheduling conflict. This can’t just be that it’s simply inconvenient for you to make the court date. Rather, it has to be a significant scheduling disruption. This could include unavoidable meetings at your workplace, or perhaps that you work in a front line emergency services role and have been called in at the last minute. More often, this is a scheduling conflict for your attorney, in that they have clashing court dates and will be unable to represent you at the appointed date or time.
MEDICAL REASONS.. It may be the case that you are unable to make the court date due to an injury or illness. This may not be your own medical condition. If you have a dependent you must take care of and can’t find an alternative option, you may be able to seek a continuance. However, it’s important to note that simply having a mild illness or a minor doctor’s appointment is usually not sufficient to ask for the judge to postpone the date. This usually has to be the result of an emergency situation or unexpected treatment of a serious condition. The judge will usually expect some form of medical evidence to support your urgent need for a continuance in such circumstances.
LACK OF PREPARATION. Another potentially effective reason for a continuance is that your legal counsel is not sufficiently prepared for the case. This cannot usually be because you have been uncooperative or unavailable to provide the information they need to prepare. As with other reasons for postponement, this needs to be largely outside of your control. It may be that your previous attorney was not competent and you’ve had to hire a new lawyer to represent you at the last minute. It could be that your current attorney simply hasn’t yet had the time or access to information that allows them to effectively offer a strong case. These things are not your fault and you have a reasonable expectation for representation by a professional. Though a judge may frown on this if it’s a repeated situation, the lack of preparation can be solid grounds for a continuance. Though this certainly highlights the need to make sure you work with an attorney experienced in representing men in family law cases from the earliest opportunity.
SIGNIFICANT CHANGES. Another common reason to seek a continuance is if there are significant changes to your case. This could take various forms. If you and your ex have previously been in agreement on aspects of custody and asset division and then your ex suddenly changes her mind and wants to make alterations, your lawyer will need time to prepare accordingly. If there is new evidence in the case on either side, each party must be allowed time to fully examine this and adjust their approach accordingly. If new witnesses are made available — particularly in cases where domestic violence is involved — each party’s legal counsel must have time to review their statements and prepare for any questioning. Where there is a change in your case, your attorney must explain to the court why this requires additional time before a judge is likely to agree to a continuance.
How to Get a Continuance?
Once you’ve established a good reason for a continuance, you need to start the process for filing a motion. Technically, this can be done by you personally. However, it’s always best to arrange for an experienced family law attorney to pursue this on your behalf. They will have the knowledge and skills to make an application that best represents your reasons for postponement and provide any evidence they know tends to be effective in such circumstances.
In either case, an application usually needs to be made in writing to the court clerk. This application must include the reasons for the delay, any relevant evidence, information about whether your former spouse contests the delay, and the earliest date you expect to be read to continue proceedings. In last-minute emergency circumstances, your lawyer may be able to request a continuance in court at the time of the hearing.
Call The Family Law Attorneys Men Trust (813) 652-0598
In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in family law proceedings. We have the knowledge and skills to guide our clients through preparing their case for trial and seeking a continuance where necessary. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.