How to Set Aside a Default Judgment

By Owen E. Richason IV

When a civil lawsuit is filed in a circuit or superior court, the defendant is generally given 20 calendar days to respond. The written response to the plaintiff's complaint is called an "answer" and either accepts, denies or lists affirmative defenses to the allegations. If the defendant does not file an answer with the court, the plaintiff requests a default judgment be entered against the defendant. These default judgments can be set aside or overturned.

Identify the court that granted the default judgment. Look at the complaint or summons. At the top of the document, you will find the case's style, which is the name of the court and the case number.

Draft a motion to set aside the default judgment. Samples and templates of such motions can be found in law libraries; some state statutes might contain a motion to set aside judgment template or language.

Explain why the court should set aside the default judgment. Laws differ by state, but in general you can cite your attorney did not file an answer in a timely manner, you were incapacitated during that time by illness, there was a court-made clerical error stating the wrong date or new evidence has been discovered. Read your state statutes for all acceptable reasons.

File the motion with the court and mail a copy of the motion to the plaintiff. Once filed, the court will schedule a hearing on your motion. Attend the hearing and state the reason(s) the court should set aside the default judgment.

About the Author

Owen Richason grew up working in his family's small contracting business. He later became an outplacement consultant, then a retail business consultant. Richason is a former personal finance and business writer for "Tampa Bay Business and Financier." He now writes for various publications, websites and blogs.

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