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Continuance is what a court may grant to delay proceedings until a later date. Parties in a suit or the judge themselves may wish to have a continuance granted in order to prepare for proceedings. Sometimes, statutes specifically delineate when continuances should be granted, but typically, judges have a lot of discretion to grant cases before a verdict has been given. Judges do not grant continuances for no reason as the need for efficiency and giving a speedy trial go against the use of continuances. In a variety of circumstances, however, parties have a legitimate need to have more time before proceedings such as when new evidence is discovered or a witness needs to be found. Judges try to balance the many countervailing policies and interests of the parties when deciding whether to grant continuances, leading to their sometimes unpredictable use. 

Continuances are similar to both postponements and stays of proceedings. Postponements also delay proceedings for different reasons, but postponements usually only delay until another date within the current term of the court, unlike continuances that may be extended to another term. Stays of proceedings delay trial until an unspecified date that depends on something occurring such as the verdict being reached in a related case. 

[Last updated in February of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]