How to Postpone a Court Date

Three Methods:Requesting a Continuance Before the DateAgreeing to a Postponement with the Opposing CounselRequesting a Continuance on the Date in Person

There are many reasons you might want or need to postpone, or in legal terms obtain a continuance for, a civil court date. If you cannot physically be present for your court date, there are two avenues to pursue to postpone the date: by obtaining permission from the court; or by agreeing to postponement with the opposing counsel. If you can be present in court but are not prepared for your case, you can appear in person on the day of the court date and ask the judge for more time. Due to differing state laws and local rules, it is always best to consult with an experienced lawyer before proceeding. If you do not have an attorney to direct you as to the right course of action, consult the steps below.

Method 1
Requesting a Continuance Before the Date

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    Contact the court. Call or visit the clerk’s office of the court that is handling your case and explain why you cannot attend the scheduled date. The clerk will inform you how continuances are handled in that state, county, or city.
    • In most cases, obtaining a continuance will need to be handled a certain number of days in advance of the court date. Contact the court as soon as you are aware you cannot attend to give yourself ample time.
    • When communicating with the clerk have your court date, case number, and any other relevant information available.
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    Take the directed action. If the reason you cannot attend is an appropriate basis for a continuance, the court will inform you what forms or motions must be filed with the court.
    • The exact forms or motions that need to be filed will vary based on the state or local rules or even the rules that the judge has set for her own courtroom.[1]
    • For instance, in most civil cases in Illinois, to change a court date, you will be required to file a motion to continue. Some common reasons that form the basis of that motion are because you cannot be present because you will be out of town, in the hospital, or incarcerated. You may also file a motion to continue because you need to hire an attorney or because a key witness or piece of evidence will not be available on the scheduled day. [2]
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    Confirm the continuance. After you take the necessary action, contact the court’s office again to ensure that the continuance was approved and the date was rescheduled. Do not skip the original date until you receive confirmation of cancellation of the original date and a rescheduled date.

Method 2
Agreeing to a Postponement with the Opposing Counsel

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    Contact the opposing counsel. Documents that you receive from the court about the court date will most likely include the contact information of the opposing parties’ attorney. If that information is not readily identifiable, the court clerk’s office can provide that information to you.
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    Come to an agreement. Despite the adversarial nature of litigation proceedings, most of the time opposing counsel are reasonable people who might be might be agreeable to postponing the date if you simply ask. The opposing counsel will also be knowledgeable about how to go about continuing the date and whether it is possible given the circumstances. Be sure to put any agreement to postpone in writing.
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    Ensure that the postponement has been approved. In the case that you are able to come to an agreement to postpone the date, the court still needs to approve that continuance. Contact the court in advance of the date and confirm that the date has been changed.
    • Do not simply rely on the word of the opposing counsel, as it is still an adversarial process and only you or your own lawyer can protect your rights.
    • In many cases, the court will be more likely to grant the continuance if the both parties are in agreement about the postponement. [3]
    • Try to maintain a civil and businesslike relationship with the opposing counsel when discussing scheduling and the case in general. [4]

Method 3
Requesting a Continuance on the Date in Person

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    Attend the court date. If you desire a postponement of the date because you simply need more time, you can opt to attend and ask the judge for more time on that date.
    • Check in with the judge’s clerk when you arrive. Tell them what case you are there for and that you would like to ask the judge for a continuance.
    • It is always good advice to be punctual, dressed for court, and polite to the judge and all the court employees when attending a court date.
    • Be sure to bring all documentation that is relevant to both your court date and the reason or reasons for the postponement.
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    Ask for more time. When the judge calls your case, approach the bench, and explain to the judge why you need more time to prepare your case.
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    Obtain confirmation. If the judge allows the continuance, the judge or clerk will give you confirmation, most likely in the form of a court order, of the postponement and the new date.


  • Failure to be present if you have not received a continuance can result in extremely negative consequences including money penalties, loss of rights, and even incarceration. Be sure to confirm that your court date has in fact been confirmed before deciding not to attend the original date.


  • Because state and local laws and rules of procedure as well as types of court cases can vary considerably it is always advisable to seek the advice of an experienced attorney when faced with a legal issue such as this.
  • Contact your local city or state bar association for a list of attorneys, firms, or nonprofit organizations. [5]
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, local nonprofit organizations can often help you obtain one at low or no cost. [6]

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Categories: Law and Legislation