When a motion is held in abeyance, it means that the court has made a decision to put the proceeding on hold for a specific amount of time, or until something specific occurs.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain more about abeyance orders.
Motion Held in Abeyance: What Does That Mean?
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Held in Abeyance Orders
“Abeyance” means a suspended state, or a position of waiting.
Abeyance orders are fairly common when multiple cases are happening at the same time.
Legally, some cases are entitled to precedence over others, and some cases cannot be heard or resolved until others proceed.
For example, when there is a bankruptcy cases involving a party is going forward, it is common for other cases involving the individual or company pending in other courts to be ‘held in abeyance’ pending the outcome of the bankruptcy.
In complex domestic violence cases, it is common for a divorce or custody proceeding to be filed right after criminal charges for assault are filed.
Given that the outcome of the criminal charges would have dramatic influence over the outcome of the custody and parenting time case, and the defendant in the criminal case wouldn’t necessarily be able to testify without incriminating himself, it is common for portions of the family matters to be held in abeyance pending resolution of the criminal case.
Sometimes the resolution of one case makes the others “moot,” meaning no longer necessary, relevant, or even possible.
A good example of this is when there are multiple cases or claims involving a piece of property. Let’s say that multiple individuals have made allegations against an individual for something that happened on his property (like an out of control party that resulted in damages).
The individual might seek a declaratory judgment confirming that he is not the owner or responsible individual for the land (and thus the party).
If the court finds that the accused party was not owner or responsible, then the rest of the claims against him would be no longer relevant or ‘moot.’
Abeyance orders are also used a lot in criminal cases.
For example, some defendants are offered opportunities to ‘earn’ a dismissal of their criminal case if they take certain actions.
After entry of his guilty plea, the court may hold the sentencing in abeyance (meaning press pause) to give the defendant a chance to complete his tasks.
If he is able to complete his tasks, then the guilty plea can be vacated and the proceeding dismissed, and the defendant can lawfully say that he was never “convicted” of any crime, as the sentencing never occurred.
Motion Held In Abeyance
Let’s say that an individual sees the words “motion held in abeyance” in court records.
This could mean a few things.
One: this could mean that a motion to hold the entire proceeding in abeyance has been filed.
Two: this could mean that a particular motion (like a motion to compel) has been ordered held in abeyance while the rest of the case proceeds.
In any event, if an individual is trying to understand what is happening in the case, it would be worthwhile to investigate further to see the actually paperwork or order from the court to confirm exactly what has been held in abeyance (the whole proceeding or just the motion).
Other Abeyance Concerns
The court is given wide latitude in determining how long to hold a matter in abeyance, and may do so over the objections of one or both of the parties.
The court may hold the matter for a specific amount of time (like 90 days) or it could hold the matter until another condition is satisfied, such as the resolution of another court case.
The timeline may have nasty implications for the parties, who may need to file other claims with upcoming expiring statute of limitations.
That a matter is held in abeyance may or may not ‘toll’ the statute of limitations for a particular claim (in particular state) and it cannot be assumed that the “abeyance” posture of the case means that everything else is on pause as well.
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