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Pretrial procedures: A motion for continuance

In complicated divorce cases, it's possible that a hearing date may need to be postponed for various reasons. Some of these include if a lawyer who has been recently retained to represent one party needs more time to prepare and get familiar with the case or if there is an issue getting a witness or certain evidence ready for the hearing. Usually, your lawyer will let you know if you need to file a motion for continuance and what that entails, but it can be helpful to understand the procedures.

According to the Florida guidelines, a motion for continuance must be presented to the court in writing. It must also include a reason for the continuance and a proposed new date that the party's counsel will be ready to proceed. When one party knows he or she will need a continuance, the other party is usually advised. At that time, the other party may object to the continuance. If this happens, the other party's objection must also be noted.

If the motion for continuance is because a witness is not available, the request must state when the witness will be available. It's also important to note that these continuances are usually only granted by the courts if the witness was subpoenaed at least 10 days before the original hearing date.

While the courts generally grant continuances, especially if the other party does not object, there are some instances where the courts will deny the request. One possibility may be if the continuance would harm the other party, such as if visitation is being limited until the case is resolved. If you believe that the continuance adversely affects your divorce case or your relationship with your children, it's important to discuss the possibilities with your attorney.

Source: Seventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, "Uniform pre-trial procedures in family cases," accessed July 28, 2015

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