How to Handle a Default Judgment in Florida
In Florida, a default judgment can be entered when a defendant is served with a lawsuit but does not respond in time. A plaintiff can ask the judge to enter the default judgment in their favor without a hearing and without any further notice to you other than the initial service.
Default judgments in Florida happen because defendants are sometimes too busy to deal with a lawsuit, don’t have enough money to hire an attorney, or simply think the case will go away if they don’t respond.
With few exceptions, once a default judgment in entered in Florida, a defendant loses their chance to fight the judgment. In other words, it typically does not matter if later on the defendant asserts that the judgment is unfair, uses incorrect numbers, is based on wrong information, or any other number of excuses.
The time to respond to the claims made by the Plaintiff and ask the Court to deny entry of the judgment would have been directly after the lawsuit was originally served. The law does not allow a defendant another chance to defend the claim just because the defendant was unable to defend the claim when the lawsuit began.
Overturning a Default Judgment
Under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540, a person can seek relief from a default judgment for the following reasons:
- mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.
- newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial or rehearing.
- fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party.
- that the judgment is void.
- that the judgment, decree, or order has been satisfied, released, or discharged or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application.
Undoing a default judgment is very difficult. For the first three reasons, a motion must be made within one year of the judgment being entered. There is no time limit on filing a motion for relief from judgment if the judgment itself is void.
The most common reason a judgment would be void is if the defendant was not properly served. Lack of proper service could mean that the court that issued the judgment did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant.
Keep in mind that even if a default judgment is based on facts or figures that you disagree with or is based on problematic documentation, it does not make the judgment void.
Asset Protection After a Default Judgment
The good news is that even if a creditor has a default judgment, a debtor can often still protect their assets from collection on the judgment.
In most circumstances, a debtor whose assets are protected from collection will be able to more favorably settle the default judgment for a percentage of the judgment total.
About the Author
Gideon Alper specializes in asset protection planning for individuals and their families.
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