Reschedule (continue) your court hearing

How to ask that your hearing be rescheduled to a later date. Good for use in all civil cases. Contains sample letters and forms. #3208EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You should use this if you have received a copy of (been served with) a motion in a civil case filed in a Washington State superior court. We originally wrote these directions for family law cases, but you can use this information in any type of civil case filed in Superior Court.

*A civil case is any type of court case that is not a criminal case.

We explain what to do if you do not think you have enough time to get ready for or go to a hearing. You can ask for a continuance to get yourself more time.

It reschedules (continues) a court hearing date to a later day.

In civil cases, hearings on motions are different from trials. A hearing on a motion is usually just about the specific issues the motion talks about. At trial, the judge hears everything the case is about. To get a continuance for a trial, you must usually do both of these:

  • File a motion for a continuance with the court

  • Deliver a copy of your motion and other related court papers to the other party ("serve" the other party)

Yes. You must explain in your motion why you need the continuance. You must also show "good cause" for continuing the hearing. "Good cause" means having a very good reason for not being able to get ready for your case or go to your trial on the scheduled date.

It depends. It is easier to get a continuance for a hearing on a motion than for a trial.

Try to talk with a lawyer before filing a motion for a trial continuance. See contact info below.

Most counties have their own rules about when and how you can get a trial continuance. If you cannot talk to a lawyer, try the court clerk, family law facilitator, or law librarian.

In most family law cases in Washington, if you receive motion papers, you must file a written response. There is usually a deadline by which to do so. The most common reason to ask for a continuance is when you do not think you can file a written response to motion papers in time. This is true in other types of civil cases, too.  

Local court rules say what your deadline to file and serve your written response is, especially depending on the type of case. Try to talk to a lawyer. If you cannot, try the court clerk, family law facilitator, or law librarian.

Here are some examples:

  • You did not get enough notice of the hearing. Example: You should have been served 7 days before a hearing. You only got the papers 3 days before. You should tell the judge that and ask for a continuance.

  • How much notice you should get of your hearing depends on the type of case and county where the case is filed. A lawyer or court facilitator can tell you the right number of days.

  • You are still trying to get legal advice. You should tell the judge why you have not been able to get advice yet. Examples: You live outside Washington. You have contacted several places for help but have not been able to talk to a lawyer yet.

  • You would explain what steps you have taken to try to get help. Tell the judge if you have an appointment to meet with a lawyer or legal services.

  • You need more time to respond because you have a disability or a temporary disability, cannot read, or have problems with reading, writing, or understanding.

  • You do not speak English as your first language. You need more time to find someone to translate the papers served on you and prepare your response. (You are entitled to have an interpreter at any court hearing if you do not speak English as a first language.)

  • You cannot get the evidence you need by the date your response is due. Example: This is a custody case. The other parent said things about you in their motion papers that are not true. You need more time to get declarations from other people and school, medical, and/or criminal records.

Maybe not. You can ask the other party if they will agree to a continuance. If they say yes, you shouldn't need to file a motion and have a hearing. We explain more below.  

*If a restraining order says you and the other party cannot have contact, or you think it would be dangerous for you to talk to them, do not try to get a continuance by agreement. Follow the instructions in How do I get a continuance by court order, below.

  • Contact the other party's lawyer or, if the other party doesn't have a lawyer, contact the other party. Ask if they will agree to a continuance.   

  • If you contact the other party or lawyer by phone, follow up with a letter, fax, or email.  Use the sample letter in this packet.

  • If the other party or lawyer agrees to a continuance, ask them to put it in writing (letter, fax, or email). It should say the new hearing date, if possible.

  • The other party or lawyer must tell the court they want the hearing continued. Call the court clerk. Make sure this has happened. Ask the clerk if there is a new hearing date.

The other party might only agree to a continuance if you agree to certain things before the next hearing. If the things are reasonable (or a judge would think so), you can agree. If you do not agree to the other party's conditions or the new proposed hearing date, you must go to court to ask for a continuance.

If you have time before the hearing and can make it to the courthouse, you should:

  • Fill out the Motion for Continuance form in this packet. It should say why you need the continuance. Explain how you can better present evidence in your case if you have more time. Explain some of what you want to tell the judge in case you do not get a continuance. Explain why not getting the continuance will harm you or someone else. If you asked the other party to agree to a continuance and they refused, put that. Attach any letters, faxes, or emails you sent the other party and any response you got. Put the service details in the Proof of Service section of the motion form.

*If you plan to serve by hand delivery, wait until you make the delivery before putting the time on the form.

  • Serve the other party or lawyer with your motion. Be sure to correctly note on the motion form when and how you served. It is okay to serve this motion yourself.

  • File your original motion with the court clerk. Deliver an extra copy for the judge. Ask the clerk how. Keep a copy for your records. 

  • Get ready for the hearing.  Make notes about what to say. Be ready to present your case if the judge does not agree to continue your hearing.   

  • Go to the hearing. Try to arrive early. When the judge calls your name, say you are there, and you are asking for a continuance. The judge may ask you why you want a continuance. A judge who agrees to give you a continuance will usually also schedule a new hearing date at that hearing. If you only have a few days before the next hearing, ask the judge what your deadline is for filing your response. You or the other party should fill out a written order for the judge to sign that lists the next hearing date, when your response is due, and anything else the judge orders. (Examples: a parent will visit with a child, one of the parties can live in the family home.) Get a copy of the signed order before you leave the courthouse.

  • If the judge won't give you a continuance, write down the judge's reasons why. If you think you had a good reason for asking for the continuance, talk to a lawyer right away. You have a short time to appeal the decision.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Download letter: request a continuance

Download form: Motion for Continuance

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Last Review and Update: Nov 16, 2023
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