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Order to Show Cause

An Order to Show Cause is a court order that mandates an individual or corporation that is party to a case to give reasons — whether factual or legal — or to prove why the court should not take a proposed action. Similar to a motion, it can require quicker action to be taken where, under the rules of Civil Procedure, there’s a limit on the number of days the opposing party can take to prepare a response. Below, questions on Order to Show Cause are answered by Legal Experts.

What are the legal consequences for not paying or showing up in court for an order to show cause? When my 20-year-old divorce case was revisited, I was ordered to pay half of my spouse’s attorney fees, which I have not paid. This case was brought against me after I retired and now my spouse wants 25% of my pension.

Failure to appear in court for an Order to Show Cause may result in a warrant for your arrest for contempt of court. Failure to make arrangement for paying half the attorney fees as ordered by the court may be construed as willful contempt of court. This means that you may have to respond immediately. Your best option will be to appear in court and present your financial circumstances to plead for a payment plan in your favor.

As a Limited Liability Company (LLC), I have been served an Order to Show Cause to cancel a lien in New York. Since I cannot afford legal representation, can I answer ‘pro se’?

To file any legal pleadings on behalf of an LLC, pursuant to NY law, you will have to be represented by legal counsel. Since an LLC is considered a separate legal entity, it will have to be represented by an attorney to respond to any liens or lawsuits in the court. Answering an Order to Show Cause pro se will be considered unauthorized practice of law. Since this is a civil case, the court will not be obliged to appoint an attorney, especially for a corporate entity. You have little choice other than to negotiate with a local attorney to represent you.

What is the procedure for delaying an Order to Show Cause in California? Will the inability to secure a counsel be considered for extension?

You will need to file a motion for extension of the Order to Show Cause based on legitimate reasons — either health issues or the inability to secure counsel that led to your inability to attend the hearing. Typically, California courts are receptive to legitimate reasons such as the above. However, please note that this is not a right, but an exception in cases where legitimate reasons are cited.

You can also petition the court formally for a "continuance" if the Order was not served 21 days before the hearing. You may claim lack of proper notice and therefore the inability to prepare adequately for the case.

Under the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, I understand that an Order to Show Cause should be served personally. However, I was served via certified mail. Is this legal?

Typically, the Order to Show Cause requires personal service and the Order itself would specify how it should be served. However, the judge may change the manner in which it served. Under Rule 4c of the SC Rules of Procedure, the court may grant an order for alternative process. If such an order is absent, you have the option to file an objection to the service questioning why you were not served in compliance with the Rule. Though in your case, since there is an ongoing litigation, this would be of little consequence.

One may obtain the forms to file an Order to Show Cause from the courthouse. On the judge’s discretion, the terms of the Order — such as the date, or when it will be served as well as conditions on appeal of a stay on the order pending the hearing — are set. Typically, the Order to Show Cause is accompanied by an "Affidavit in Support" and documents that persuades the judge to accept the application. All parties must be served the copies in a manner directed by the Order itself. The party that has been served the Order to Show Cause may oppose the show cause and even obtain a delay on the hearing date depending on valid reason. You may seek legal opinion to get a better understanding of the law in this matter.
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