Legal Definition: What is a Rule to Show Cause?

Legal Definition: What is a Rule to Show Cause?

Richard Fonfrias, J.D.
Chicago’s Financial Rescue & Bankruptcy Lawyer
Fonfrias Law Group, LLC


A Rule to Show Cause is a court order that notifies the other party when a hearing is scheduled so a dispute can be heard by the court. In addition, it spells out the relief that you are seeking and the other party’s right to argue why the court should deny that relief. In Illinois, a Rule to Show Cause if often used in alimony, child support and visitation disputes.

The Rule to Show Cause may also provide short-term relief until the hearing is held and the court has the opportunity to rule on the matter.

During a civil matter, you can file a Rule to Show Cause to proceed with the legal matter, argue that the other party is not following the court’s order, or to request that the court provide temporary relief.

How to File a Rule to Show Cause

The rules vary depending on the state and county where the civil matter is pending, so make sure you check the local procedures. After the judge signs the order, then you must file it with the court and have a copy served on the opposing party.

In a Civil Matter…

Most often, you must ask for a hearing to move your civil action forward to a conclusion.

If either party opposes the civil matter action, then the court will require a hearing to determine whether the legal requirements for the civil action are met. These include the length of separation or number of days since the action was filed and served. If the civil action is based on fault, then the court will require a hearing so the plaintiff can prove he is both innocent and injured.

When a hearing is required to conclude the case, a Rule to Show Cause is used to tell the opposing party of the hearing and give him a chance to show why the civil action should not be granted.

Its Most Common Use

The Rule to Show Cause is most commonly used to enforce a court order. The court order could be an interim civil matter order or a final decree. When the opposing party violates an order, you ask the court to issue a Rule to Show Cause. In the request, you explain how the opposing party violated the court’s order and attach a copy of that order. If the court agrees that its order was violated, it can find the violating party in contempt of court. It can then impose sanctions, which include fines, attorney’s fees or jail time.

Requests From the Court

You can also use the Rule to Show Cause to request that the court take action while a civil matter is pending. Check your local laws to see which kinds of requests you can make of the court. For example, the law might allow you to ask the court to permit discovery, to dismiss part or all of a civil matter, or to freeze assets. An Illinois lawyer can help you to determine whether filing a Rule to Show Cause is your best course of action. If the Rule to Show Cause has been filed against you in Illinois, speak with a qualified attorney.

For more information about the Rule to Show Cause, or any other questions you may have on finance and legal issues including bankruptcy, foreclosure, tax arrears, creditor harassment, and more, contact Rich Fonfrias, Chicago’s Financial Rescue & Bankruptcy Lawyer. Rich has dedicated his career to assisting those with serious money problems find a solution and make a fresh financial start. For legal advice to Chicago call 312-969-0730 or email