Helping Texans with a variety of family law cases, including child custody and divorce.

Continuances- when does the appellate court reverse a trial court’s granting of a continuance?

by | Feb 24, 2024 | Firm News

In legal proceedings, a continuance serves as a request to reschedule a court hearing or trial to a later date, typically sought when additional time is necessary for adequate preparation. This article offers insights into the factors influencing the grant or denial of continuances, shedding light on the complexities involved in navigating this aspect of the legal process.

Understanding Continuances

A continuance, in essence, allows parties involved in a case to request a change in the scheduled date of a court proceeding. This request is often made when more time is needed for thorough preparation, whether it involves gathering evidence, securing legal representation, or addressing unforeseen circumstances.

Whether or not to grant a continuance, like most decisions in family law, up to the court’s discretion. In fact, a trial court’s ruling on a continuance won’t be overturned by an appellate court unless the court committed a “clear abuse of discretion”. “BMC Software Belg., N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 800 (Tex. 2002). How do we know when a court abuses its discretion? A court abuses its discretion when “its ruling is so arbitrary or unreasonable and without reference to any guiding rules and principles.” See Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985).

Examples help.

Continuance Denied
Trial Court abused its discretion
Verkin v. Southwest Center One, Ltd., 784 S.W.2d 92 (Tex. App. 1989)
Continuance should have been granted when, “The trial court should have granted defendant’s first motion for continuance for the combined reasons that: the suit had been on file less than three months; the motion stated sufficient good cause; the motion was uncontroverted; it was the first motion for continuance”
McAleer v. McAleer, 394 S.W.3d 613 (Tex. App. 2012)
given that the movant had an uncommunicative attorney in possession of his documents and given the attorney’s failure to conduct and complete discovery, the trial court abused its discretion in denying the movant’s motion for continuance.
Trial Court did not abuse its discretion
In re J.L.T., No. 07-18-00340-CV (Tex. App. Dec 28, 2018)
Mother filed a motion for a continuance but did not support the motion with an affidavit pursuant to TEX. R. CIV. P. 251.”
In re R.A.L., 291 S.W.3d 438 (Tex. App. 2009)
Father’s continuance denied when his continuance was based on missing witnesses (want of testimony) and father did not allege that he “used due diligence to procure such testimony, stating such diligence, that such testimony [could] not be procured from any other source, the name and residence of the witness, and what he expect[ed] to prove by him; and also he did not state that the continuance [was] not sought for delay only, but that justice may be done.”  All pursuant to TEX.R. CIV. P. 252.

It should be noted that no meaningful cases were found when an appeal was based on the trial court granting, instead of denying, a motion for continuance. Further, the cases above where the trial court was found to have abused its discretion were not family law cases. So, if you are asking for a continuance, the judge likely knows that very few of these cases get reversed and thus a trial court judge must want to grant your motion for continuance in order to grant it. Keep in mind though, if a trial court grants your motion for continuance that’s one less case they have to hear that day. So, a court granting a motion for continuance is not extremely unusual, Inf act, multiple cases are usually scheduled t be heard on the same day so granting a motion for continuance is sometimes a way of clearing the over-packed docket.