A default judgment is when a court has decided the defendant owes money and the defendant did not show up to court on the date of the hearing. Judgments can be filed with the credit reporting agencies or even establish a garnishment of the defendants wages. Fighting a default judgment requires filing a motion to vacate the judgement, preparing your case and filing for an appeal if the judge rules to vacate the judgment.
Go to the county clerk's office in the county in which the judgment was filed as soon as you can. Most states require the motion to vacate be filed within 30 days of the decision being handed down. Get the paperwork required from the clerk's office to file for a motion to vacate the judgment.
Fill out the paperwork for the clerk's office. The form will ask why you did not attend the hearing. You must present a viable reason. If you did not receive the summons, the summons did not give you time to respond, you were out of the state or ill are typically acceptable reasons. You must have documentation showing that you were ill or any other reasonable excuse why you were unable to attend the hearing. You must also enter why the judgment request is not valid, such as identity theft, you had already paid the debt, or the service was not rendered.
Return the motion to vacate to the clerk's office and pay the filing fee.Typically a new court date will be set to hear your motion.
Go to the hearing on the date. Bring all materials to support your reason for absence and defense with you to court. Explain to the judge in a clear and concise manner why you did not appear previously and present all your supporting documentation to the court.
File an appeal if the judge grants your motion to vacate. A new court date will be established and you will have to appear and defend your case again on that assigned date.
- Each state handles vacating judgments slightly differently. Discuss with your county clerk what your state's process is or consult with a trusted attorney.
- If the judge denies the motion to vacate judgment, you may appeal that decision but you are not able to file an appeal of the judgment until the motion to vacate has been granted.
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