What Is a Motion for Continuance?

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  • Written By: M. Lupica
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
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A motion for continuance is filed when, for whatever reason, the requesting party needs a hearing to be postponed for any amount of time. The motion must identify the case, the plaintiff, and the defendant as well as the reason that the party is requesting the continuance. Typically, the filing requirements for a continuance are simply filing a copy with the court and serving a copy — i.e., delivering a copy of the document through a court approved means such as certified mail — to the opposing party or his or her attorney.

There are several reasons for which a party to litigation may file a motion for continuance. While it is at the discretion of the judge who is presiding of the case whether or not to grant the motion, the standard is generally whether or not the continuance would be in the interest of justice. Continuances are commonly granted for unforeseeable events that occur at the time of a trial. For example, a continuance is likely to be granted in the event that the party moves for the continuance for the purpose of attending the funeral of a family member.


It is more difficult to have a motion for continuance granted in a criminal case than in a civil case in many jurisdictions because of the common right of the accused to a speedy trial. In the jurisdictions that recognize such a right, judges will consider several factors in deciding whether or not to grant the continuance. He or she will consider whether or not failure to grant the continuance will result in injustice to the moving party, the length and cause of the requested continuance, as well as if the defendant objects to the continuance.

A typical motion for continuance will have a standard motion format identifying the case number and the parties involved. The body of the motion will explain simply that the moving party is requesting a continuance and the reasons for the request. The moving party usually must file a copy of the motion for continuance with the court in addition to serving the other party with a copy of the document. The court is under no obligation to grant the motion, but if he or she does grant the continuance, then the date for the next scheduled hearing will be after the requested period of continuance.


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Will a judge typically grant a continuance for travel plans on a small claims mediation date?

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