Can I adjourn a court hearing if I am unable to attend?

It is very common that parties to a dispute will file an application and by the time a hearing is scheduled they are unavailable on the listed date. There could be any number of reasons that a party is unavailable e.g. work commitments, scheduled travel plans, sickness.

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The courts are at present dealing with funding issues and significant understaffing which results in significant delays between application filing and hearing listing.

If a party is unable to attend at their listed hearing they will need to request to have the hearing adjourned. To ‘adjourn’ in the context of legal proceedings is to suspend the hearing indefinitely or to another time or place.

The application will still need to be considered by a judge who can agree or refuse to adjourn. There are no guarantees!

How do I adjourn?

You should first try to obtain the agreement of the other party or parties to the proposed adjournment. You or your solicitor could simply contact the other party directly (or their solicitor if one is instructed) and seek their agreement to the adjournment and relisting on a date that suits both parties.

If you have the consent of the other party it will definitely bolster your application to adjourn the hearing. More often than not it will result in the court granting the application to adjourn.

Even with the agreement of the other side you will still need to submit an application to court.

What sort of application does the court require?

Sometimes the court will accept simply an email requesting the adjournment. This is an ‘informal’ application. This will succeed only if the other side are in open agreement to the adjournment. This is a very informal means of request to the court and it will be entirely at the discretion of the allocated judge.

An alternative type of informal application which is often used when parties are in agreement to adjournment is the drafting and signing of a short order signed by both parties or their legal representatives – known as a ‘consent order’. This document would contain confirmation that both parties are jointly seeking adjournment. It would be submitted to the court in advance of the hearing to be considered by the judge. The judge then decides whether or not to grant the adjournment.

However it is more usual that the court will require that a C2 form is completed and filed at court along with supporting evidence. This is known as a ‘formal’ application to court. There will be a court fee for filing the C2 application. If there is consent of all parties to the application to adjourn then evidence of that should be attached to the C2 form.

What sort of evidence will the court ask for?

As stated previously, if you have the other party’s consent to the adjournment then you would attach that to your application to court.

If not, then you will need to submit sufficient evidence to persuade the court that your request to adjourn is reasonable in the circumstances. If you have a medical condition or related appointment preventing you from attending the hearing then evidence such a letter from a treating clinician or an appointment card should be attached.

If you are travelling you should provide evidence of flights, bookings for accommodation, and explain the financial implications of having to reschedule the trip.

If you are otherwise engaged due to important work commitments, a letter from your employer detailing those commitments and reasons you are unable to attend court should be provided to the court.

Remember that the judge has full discretion to either agree or refuse the application to adjourn.

What sort of factors will the court consider?

The court will be primarily concerned with any delay the adjournment will cause to the proceedings. The court has a duty to deal with matters fairly and efficiently in the interest of justice.

Therefore, when deliberating over an application to adjourn, the judge will need to consider the impact of any delay on all parties involved in the matter. The court will be especially concerned with the impact of the proposed delay on any children involved in the proceedings.

The court will be mindful of any financial ramifications of delay caused by adjournment. For example if a party would be put in financial hardship as a result of waiting for another hearing date.

In children matters the court will be very concerned that the children are impacted as little as possible both in terms of finances, schooling, schedules and emotional and psychological wellbeing.

The court will need to consider what stage the parties are in proceedings (first hearing or final) along with the reasons given for the adjournment and the likely resulting impact on the other parties, any children, and other experts or witnesses involved in the case.

The court will want to ensure that there is no disadvantage to any party in the dispute by way of the judge’s decision to delay or not. It is a balancing act for the judge – to consider the impact on all parties and make a decision as to the best course of action in the case.

Are there other options for attending court hearings if I can’t attend in person?

In-person hearings have commenced again since the Covid-19 pandemic related restrictions have been lifted. However, a positive impact of the pandemic on court proceedings is that the court, legal representatives and parties can consider making more use of remote platform facilitated hearings.

Remote hearings can take place by video (VC) or audio (telephone or via a platform) instead of face-to-face.

Some courts allow ‘hybrid’ hearings – meaning that some participants will be in person in the court room and some will be attending via VC or an Audio remote platform.

It is more usual that preliminary or interim hearings would be scheduled remotely, whereas longer hearings or hearings where witnesses are given evidence tend to be heard in person. There is no hard and fast rule, however you would need to give good reason(s) why you would be requesting to give evidence remotely.

How does it work in practice?

The court has the power to hold hearings remotely via VC platform or telephone or any other direct method of oral communication.

If parties to a dispute wish to have a hearing heard remotely rather than in person then they must make an application to the court seeking directions that the hearing will be remote. The allocated judge will decide whether it is an appropriate case to be heard remotely, or not.

There are many rules, regulations and practice directions giving guidance to legal representatives and parties about the use of video conference platforms. There is extra consideration needed when considering hearings where evidence is being given, usually at trial.

The rules vary from court to court and it is important to check the specific guidance issued by the court where your proceedings are being heard. Ultimately, the decision as to whether a hearing will take place remotely / hybrid or in person is a matter for the judge.

What factors will be considered by the court when considering whether or not to list a hearing remotely?

  • whether all parties are in agreement that the hearing should be remote, or if there is opposition to a remotely conducted hearing;
  • Whether there is oral evidence to be given and whether it would have less impact via remote or hybrid methods;
  • Whether it would be appropriate for the case to be dealt with via written submissions rather than the parties giving evidence;
  • What sort of remote platform would be most appropriate (e.g. video/ telephone);
  • Whether the parties are likely to behave appropriately during the remote hearing as they would if the hearing was in person.


There is no guarantee that the court will allow adjournment in any matter. There must be sufficiently strong evidence to support an application to adjourn, especially in absence of both parties consent to the adjournment. It is important therefore that you have all documentary evidence ready to provide to the court along with your application.

The application to adjourn could be made informally or formally. It can be made with or without the consent of the other party. The most appropriate form of application will be dictated by your specific case and circumstances.

The are many different factors the court will consider when deliberating upon an application to adjourn including any delay to the proceedings as a whole with the court being minded of the need for fairness and efficiency.

If there are other means of attending at a hearing if face-to-face is not an option – for example via VC or telephone / other audio method –  and those options should be considered before considering making any application to adjourn.

If adjournment is necessary, your chosen legal representative will be able to advise you on all relevant factors and court procedures, and the appropriate application in your specific case.

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