Whether you are involved in civil litigation or are the defendant in a criminal case, missing a court date can have serious consequences. In a civil case you risk losing the case by having a default judgment entered against you. In a criminal case you risk a warrant being issued for your arrest for failing to appear. If you know you will be unable to appear for a previously scheduled court date, you must file a motion to continue as far in advance as reasonably possible under the circumstances.
Locate and read the court rules for the court where you are scheduled to appear. Court procedural rules can generally be found online, in the court office or at the local library. Pay particular attention to rules regarding how far in advance a request must be made.
Contact the opposing party to ascertain whether they will agree to the continuance. An agreement does not guarantee a continuance, but most judges are more likely to grant one if both parties are in agreement.
Prepare your request for a continuance. The legal term for a request to continue a court date is a "Motion to Continue." Most courts, however, will accept a letter requesting the continuance.
Include in the request the name of the parties to the case, the date and time you are currently scheduled to appear and your reason for requesting a continuance. You should also indicate how long a continuance you are requesting and whether the opposing party has agreed to the continuance.
Attach supporting documentation if available. For instance, if there has been a death in your family or you have a medical emergency, attach any documentation you have regarding the death or medical emergency.
Make at least two copies of the request. File the request with the court and provide the opposing party with a copy.
Contact the court a few days after filing the request. You are not relieved of your obligation to appear until the judge has actually granted the request to continue the case.