What is a Motion to Extend?

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  • Written By: Jan Hill
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2020
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A legal motion is a formal written request made to a court asking that it do something specific. A request to extend may be made by a party that wants the court to extend the time required to complete something, such as provide information, meet a deadline, or perform an action. A motion to extend will usually be accompanied by supporting documentation, such as information on the rule or law that allows the motion to be made; appropriate exhibits, affidavits, and a written document called a brief in support of a motion to extend are usually provided as well. These documents outline the reasons the request is being made and why it should be granted by the court. If a hearing is held, the parties to the action typically will present oral arguments in support of or against the motion. The court then considers the arguments along with the motion and supporting documentation to make its final ruling and issue a formal order.


When a party, or plaintiff, files a complaint against another person, a defendant, he normally does so by formally delivering a written document. The complaint typically must be served upon the defendant within a certain amount of time according to local court rules. If the plaintiff makes a good faith effort to serve the complaint upon the other party but is unable to do so, he may file a motion to extend time to file complaint so he is not in danger of missing the deadline. If the court finds the motion to show good cause, it will issue a formal order extending the deadline.

Once a complaint has been served upon a party and filed with the court, the defendant typically has a specific amount of time to formally answer the complaint, usually 30 days in most jurisdictions. If he is unable to do so because he cannot find legal representation or for some other valid reason, he may file a motion to extend time to answer the complaint with the court. This is a very important motion because if the defendant does not answer the complaint within the time allowed, he may be deemed to have admitted the allegations and the court can issue a default judgment against him in the plaintiff's favor.

After a lawsuit has commenced, the parties normally exchange information about the case in an informal process called discovery. Some courts may issue an order that provides for specific deadlines that a case must follow, including a date when discovery must be completed. If a party needs more time to meet the discovery requests of the other party, or has more of his own discovery to complete and is in danger of noncompliance with the discovery deadline, he may file a motion to extend the discovery deadline with the court. If the other party is in agreement with the motion, and the court finds that it has merit, it can order a new discovery deadline that will be binding upon both parties.

Motions to extend are often used in bankruptcy cases as well. In a bankruptcy action, once a debtor files for bankruptcy, the court normally grants him what is known as an automatic stay, which protects him from further garnishments, foreclosure actions, and collection attempts by creditors. In some circumstances, such as when a debtor has had a bankruptcy filing dismissed, or has filed for bankruptcy on multiple occasions in a certain amount of time, a stay may not be automatic, or may only be granted for a short time, sometimes as little as 30 days. If the debtor can show good cause why the stay should be extended, he may file a motion to extend an automatic stay with the court. Examples of good cause may include wage garnishment, a surrender of personal property to satisfy the debt, or evidence of a higher paying job.


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OK, but in what format? Is there a form, and if so, what is it called?

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