Within the proceedings of any legal issue, be it Family Law or otherwise, there are several deadlines. For example, there may be a deadline to file an action, a deadline to file a response, deadlines to file discovery, and deadlines for trial, just to name a few. Often, these deadlines must be strictly followed.
However, in certain circumstances, a continuance may be requested by one or both parties.
Timelines and preliminary dates for hearings and trials are often set early in the litigation to ensure that there is a timeframe to keep the case moving forward. But, as the case moves forward, it may become apparent that more time is needed to properly prepare for and complete information gathering and preparation for the case. In these instances, parties can file a Motion to Continue, allowing for more time-either a specific date requested or a date to be reset at the Court’s convenience.
Another fairly common cause for a Motion to Continue to be filed is when a party is either not represented by an attorney, and seeks time to hire same, or when a party has counsel who has withdrawn, and a party needs time to find an attorney to replace prior counsel.
Generally, in Indiana, a lawyer may not simply withdraw from a case without notice. Under the Indiana Trial Rules1, a lawyer must give written notice to the client at least ten (10) days before the Motion to Withdraw is filed, and either note that the matter has been concluded for which he or she was hired or that withdrawal is required or permitted under the Rules of Professional Conduct2.
A recent Court of Appeals case examined a situation involving a lawyer filing to withdraw the day of a complex hearing, and the client moving to continue and being denied a continuance. Here, the attorney did not give adequate notice to the client under either the trial rules or local rules (local Court rules, further clarifying the conditions to withdraw).
The client moved to continue the hearing and was denied, and after representing herself for the remainder of the hearing, she then appealed. The Court found that the client’s case was prejudiced by the denial of her Motion to Continue. The hearing was at a “critical stage in the proceedings” and by not having counsel, she was not able to protect her interests regarding her case.
If you find yourself in the position where your attorney is withdrawing or generally need a continuance, immediately consult with an attorney or Court staff if you are unable to contact an attorney to determine the best course of action. This can help protect your interests until another attorney can be hired.
We hope that this blog post has been informative about continuances and withdrawals. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.