If you’ve failed to participate in your divorce case (or custody), you may face Default Judgment. This occurs when the Court finds that you have not properly asserted your defenses in a case. In other words, the Court finds that you’ve let a court action go unopposed. A Default Judgment will be granted and, in essence, grants whatever relief the other party asks for.
Can you fight off a default judgment?
The short answer is “maybe.” If a Default Judgment has already been issued against you, you may need to file a Motion to Vacate a Default Judgment. Vacate basically means to throw out or cancel the previous judgment. The Court may consider whether there was excusable neglect or fraud among other reasons to Vacate a Default Judgment. Regardless of your reason for asking the Court to Vacate the Default Judgment, the burden is on you to establish the appropriate legal basis for the Court to grant such relief.
If the Court has not yet granted a Default Judgment, you are faced with asking the Court to not grant the request. The law surrounding this particular issue is deeply imbedded with public policy. Granting a Default Judgment may be considered the harshest sanction you can face. Furthermore, the case law guiding this issue also suggests that Courts should attempt to resolve divorces or custody cases based on the facts of the case instead of a failure to respond. That may not always prevent a Court from granting such relief, though.
Regardless, you should do everything in your power to avoid facing a Default Judgment. If you are served with a Petition for Dissolution (or Petition to Establish Custody), you should not ignore the documents. Sticking your head in the sand is no way to respond to a Court action and it may lose out on important rights.