A default judgment can expedite cases in which the defendant simply fails to show up.

If you are the plaintiff in a lawsuit, obtaining a default judgment against the defendant can be a very favorable result. However, many individuals aren’t exactly clear on what a default judgment is or what happens when a default judgment is issued.

What Is a Default Judgment?

When an individual is given notice of a court case against them, they are given a certain amount of time to appear in court and file an answer to the suit. The defendant will receive a summons that indicates this timeframe and explains that a default judgment may be issued if they do not appear in court and file an answer.

You should know, however, that it is your responsibility, as the person filing the lawsuit, to keep track of whether or not the defendant has answered the suit in time. The court does not keep track of this for you. Once time is up, you may gather all relevant documentation and request default.

Additionally, if the defendant does manage to show up for the default hearing, the court will generally allow the defendant to proceed. If they don’t, you will likely obtain a default judgment.

What Happens after a Default Judgment?

If you obtain a default judgment and get the judge to sign your paperwork, you then need to make a copy of the paperwork and serve it to the defendant. After you notify the defendant of the judgment, you can begin to enforce the judgment.

Your judgment might be for money, repossession, eviction, foreclosure, or any number of things. In any case, your rights at this point would be the same as if you had gone to trial and won.

Motion to Vacate

A Motion to Vacate is one way by which a defendant can avoid enforcement of a default judgment. If the defendant fails to answer the suit in time, he or she can file this motion in order to bypass a default judgment. This is generally only viable if the defendant is able to prove that they did not receive notice of the lawsuit or that their failure to show up was due to excusable neglect or a mistake. In some cases, the defendant will also have to demonstrate that they have a meritorious defense, meaning that the defendant has a reasonable chance at winning the case if the judgment is vacated.

If the defendant is able to have the judgment vacated, you effectively have to start over from the beginning.