Order to Show Cause – Law Definition

An order from a judge that directs a party to come to court and convince the judge why she shouldn’t grant an action proposed by the other side or by the judge on her own (sua sponte). For example, in a divorce, at the request of one parent a judge might issue an order directing the other parent to appear in court on a particular date and time to show cause why the first parent should not be given sole physical custody of the children. Although it would seem that the person receiving an order to show cause is at a procedural disadvantage–she, after all, is the one who is told to come up with a convincing reason why the judge shouldn’t order something–both sides normally have an equal chance to convince the judge to rule in their favor.

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