Today’s vocabulary word is “continuance.” A continuance is, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, “The adjournment or postponement of an action pending in a court, to a subsequent day of the same or another term.” You need to know this word if you have waited until the last minute to deal with a family law issue and still have no attorney. And let’s just say it: you need an attorney.
Court Calendars in Virginia
Virginia’s court system includes two branches that often see family law matters:
- Circuit Courts — your divorce is handled here
- Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts — child custody, child support, and parenting time issues are handled here
Both branches of the court system predominantly dealing with family law matters have busy court calendars. Your matter may be urgent to you, yes, but it has to fall into line with all the workings of the court.
Part of the frustration the general public has with the legal system is its deliberate, slow pace. Our legal system is designed to wring emotion and passion out of the process, leaving only logic, evidence, and truth. To handle any legal matter (civil or criminal), you need an attorney.
When is it Too Late to Hire an Attorney?
So, while the cogs of the court system grind remarkably slowly, they do still grind. An upcoming family law matter may sneak up on you. You may not be ready for it for several reasons:
- You did not realize the magnitude of the matter, thinking you could handle it yourself (handling it pro se; more on that below)
- You may have thought you and the other party (probably your ex-spouse, former partner, or even a relative) could work things out
- Evidence you were counting on to help may not be forthcoming
- A witness you intended to help with your cause may back out
YouTube is abuzz with examples of sincere but ignorant people in court tripping all over themselves in court pro se, or “in one’s own behalf.” Courts are accommodating with pro se litigants, but a judge will coddle a lack of legal knowledge only so much. You need an attorney.
It really does not matter whether you are worrying over a separation agreement, divorce proceeding, modification to spousal support, or anything involving children; you need an attorney.
Can I Hire an Attorney at Court?
Unfortunately, you cannot hire an attorney while standing outside the courtroom door on the day of your hearing. The legal system — and Virginia’s reputable lawyers — do not work that way. No attorney is allowed to hang a shingle out in front of the courtroom or set up a legal lemonade stand in the courthouse halls.
Which means, if you start searching on Friday after lunch in hopes of landing a lawyer for a Monday morning hearing, you may be s#¿t out of luck.
You, or an attorney you hire at the very last minute, may request a continuance (our vocabulary word of the day!) You must have a legitimate excuse for requesting the judge to postpone your legal matter. Lack of preparation is not an excuse for you.
Lack of time to prepare is a legitimate excuse for the attorney you hire, however. Your newly hired family law practitioner can beseech the court (in the most respectful, humble tone, by the way) for time to prepare, since your new attorney really did not have any time to work with you.
Do not expect the judge to be happy with you, but do expect the judge to be mildly tolerant of your attorney’s motion. Indeed, you may get a solid Virginia dressing-down in court, with the judge sternly directing the Commonwealth’s wrath at you.
Do yourself a favor.
Shut up and take it.
Do not interrupt. Do not argue. You screwed up! You waited too long to hire your attorney! The judge granting the continuance is most likely the same judge who will hear your matter! So stay quiet, keeping your eye on the goal: to get legal relief in your family law case.
Call The Firm For Men’s Family Law Attorneys
Remember the slow, stately pace we mentioned? A continuance is the Virginia court system’s gracious gift to you. If your attorney is skillful enough and humble enough to snag a continuance for you, your case may slide into the future by a month; two months.
Learn from your error and meet with your attorney, get your strategy worked out, and be on time and prepared when your new court date arrives. Whether you win or lose your particular family law issue, you will feel better knowing you were fully prepared and well represented.
At The Firm For Men we can provide you with all the advice and vocabulary lessons you want. Contact our family law attorneys for men today at (757) 383-9184. We cannot work miracles for Virginia’s men — your case may have to be continued if you got a late start — but we can come pretty darn close!