Legal How-To: Changing Your Court Date - Law and Daily Life
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Legal How-To: Changing Your Court Date

How do you change your court date? The answer can vary by jurisdiction and even by court. It can also depend on the type of case you're involved in -- for example, rules for criminal court, probate court, and small claims court are all different.

If you're represented by a lawyer, then changing your court date can potentially be as simple as asking your attorney to do it for you. Your attorney will likely need to confer with the court and with the opposing party in order to secure a new court date. A court hearing may even be required.

But if you're representing yourself, you're probably talking about small claims or traffic court. If so, here are some potential ways you may be able to change your court date:

  1. Call the court. One way to change your court date is to start by looking at your summons. On your traffic ticket or summons, you'll find a phone number for the court. Call the court as soon as you realize you have a scheduling conflict. Courts will be more lenient if they're given more time to reschedule your case. If you're assigned to a specific judge, you can call the judge's office directly. Depending on the jurisdiction, some courts require you to appear in person to change the date.
  2. Write a letter to the court. In some states, you can write a letter to the court explaining why you need to change your court date. Like calling the court, the letter should be sent far in advance. The letter should include the name and number of the case, a timeframe for when you can appear in court, and the reason for changing the date. If there's another party involved, you'll probably also have to send a copy of the letter to the opposing party so they're aware of any changes.
  3. File a postponement request. Some states require you to ask for a postponement by formally filing a request with the court. For example, in California, small-claims litigants are required to file a particular form with the court as soon as possible. Some jurisdictions will allow you to mail in the form, but others require you to deliver it in person to the clerk's office. You'll probably also have to serve the document on all other parties involved in the case.

Each state has different rules for how to change your court date, so be sure to check your court's website or call the court clerk for more information.

Need More Help?

Figuring out how to change your court date generally isn't too difficult, but people who are representing themselves in court can sometimes get confused by, or frustrated with, court procedures. It may be wise to consult an experienced lawyer who handles your type of case to make sure you're doing it right.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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