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Good morning. I certainly understand the situation and your concern. When a defendant fails to file a written Answer with the court, the court will issue a judgment against the defendant. A judgment issued under those circumstances is known as a default judgment. The court usually awards the plaintiff the amount demanded in the complaint, plus interest and court costs. There are two main reasons that a court will vacate a default judgment: (1) excusable default and (2) lack of personal jurisdiction. These reasons are explained below.
Excusable Default Excusable default is the most common reason for vacating a default judgment. It has two parts: (1) a reasonable excuse for not filing an Answer within the 30 day time; and (2) a meritorious defense (a good defense). There is a time limit for moving to vacate a judgment because of excusable default – 180 days from the entry of the Judgment. (If you were never served with a Notice of Entry of the Judgment, the time limit is extended to 2 years.)
Common examples of a reasonable excuse: The most common example of a reasonable excuse is that you did not receive the Summons. Other reasonable excuses are that at the time you received the Summons you were out of town, ill, incarcerated, or that you could not answer the Summons for some other good reason. You would also have a reasonable excuse if, in response to the Summons, you telephoned the attorneys for the plaintiff and they told you not to bother filing an Answer.
Sometimes people do not respond to the Summons because they do not understand what it is. This is not normally considered to be a reasonable excuse; however, some judges will accept it.
Common examples of a meritorious defense: A defense is a reason why you don't owe the money, not a reason why you can't pay. For example, you would like to use the defense of identity theft or statute of limitations
. For a list of possible defenses, see Common Defenses to Debt Collection Lawsuits. You can also simply dispute the amount of the debt. Disputing the amount of the debt, combined with improper service, is a sufficient (and very common) reason for the court to grant an order vacating the default judgment.
Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Improper Service) The court can also vacate a default judgment if you were not properly served with a Summons. There are advantages and disadvantages to trying to vacate a judgment on the grounds of improper service. The main advantage is that there is no time limit for seeking to vacate a judgment on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. Also, if you seek to vacate a judgment because of improper service, you do not need to cite a meritorious defense (or any defense). The disadvantage of seeking to vacate a judgment on the grounds of improper service is that you have the burden of proving the bad service, which you must do at a hearing before the judge. Proving improper service can be difficult depending on the facts of your case.
In addition, here is a link to the forms which you may need and the steps to take, as well.
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