When you’re involved in a lawsuit, you have two ways to communicate with the judge: speaking before the court during a hearing or trial or by filing a motion.
A motion is a written request for the judge to issue an order or make a decision on a contested issue. You can use this procedural device to request relief on a specific detail of a case, like a hearing date. Under certain circumstances, you can also use it to resolve the whole case before it goes to court.
It’s important to understand how motions work and learn what they can do for you. Here are some tips:
Filing a motion in court might seem intimidating, but it’s a relatively simple procedure involving four main steps:
- The moving party files a motion with the court.
- The opposing party files a response.
- The moving party replies.
- The judge issues a ruling.
Filing the Motion
First, you draft and file a motion with the court that’s hearing your case. The specific rules for this process will vary from court to court, but in general, motions include:
- An affidavit explaining the grounds you have for requesting relief
- The specific request for relief
- A memorandum listing relevant law(s) supporting your request
- A Notice of Motion (a space for the court clerk to write the date, time, and place the motion will be heard by the judge)
You can obtain your court’s specific rules for filing a motion on the court’s website or by contacting the court clerk. Many courts also have “fill in the blank” motion forms available to download.
Serving the Motion
Once you’ve filed, you must serve the other part and their attorneys with a copy of the motion and the Notice of Motion. You can do this through the mail or via a process server.
Failure to serve interested parties as soon as possible could result in your motion being delayed or denied. If you’re unsure how to properly serve the opposing party, check with the court clerk.
After being served, the other party must file a response within a specific time, usually within 14 days of the hearing. If the other party opposes your motion, it must state the grounds for opposition and provide supporting evidence. The response will be served to you, and you’ll have the option to reply.
The Motion Hearing
Some motions automatically require hearings and some don’t. Both you and the opposing party may request a hearing, but the decision to hold one will ultimately be made by the judge.
If there isnÕt a hearing, the judge will rule based on the written documents and evidence submitted. If there is a hearing, the judge may ask you and the opposing party to argue your positions on the motion. The judge will then make a decision based on the written submissions and oral arguments and sign an order that either grants or denies the motion. All parties are legally bound by the order.
What Can Motions Accomplish?
Motions are used in both criminal and civil court, and they can be filed before, during, or after a trial. In civil court, the turf of most pro se litigants, they can be used to seek a wide variety of relief, such as spousal support at the start of divorce proceedings, child visitation during custody cases, and the cancellation of default judgements in small claims court.
One of the most common, and potentially powerful, motions filed in court is called a Motion for Summary Judgement. This motion is a request for the judge to make a final ruling on a case before trial. It’s only granted if there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute.
Motions are an important part of the litigation process that can help further your case in a variety of ways. To boost your chances of success in court, familiarize yourself with the motion process.