What Is the Legal Definition of a "show Cause Hearing"?

The Free Dictionary indicates that a show-cause hearing is a legal proceeding in which a party to a legal action appears in court and provides reasons why the court should not take proposed action. Show-cause hearings usually occur following the application of a third party requesting specific relief, such as a request for a temporary restraining order or in other situations when time is of the essence.

A show-cause hearing occurs in response to a show-cause order or a motion to show cause. According to The Free Dictionary, this type of proceeding is similar to a motion, and it is one in which one party to a legal action asks the court to order the other party to comply with an order or request. For example, in a civil dispute, both parties typically must produce certain documents relevant to the case. If one of the parties fails to do so in a timely manner, the court may issue a show-cause order requiring the offending party to come to court and demonstrate why it has not complied.

According to NOLO's DivorceNet, show-cause hearings also are common in divorce proceedings when issues of custody, visitation, alimony and child support arise. For example, in a case in which a custodial parent fails to abide by a visitation agreement, the noncustodial parent may file an application requesting a show-cause hearing. During this hearing, the custodial parent must provide legal reasons for breaching the agreement.