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What Is a Default Judgment?

When a court requests the presence of an individual before it on a specific time and date, it is imperative that the individual present himself or herself unless he or she responds with a legitimate excuse. Failure to do so results in a default judgment. This is considered to be an unfavorable decision issued by the court to an individual, usually the defendant.

It is most common in the justice system for a defendant to be issued a default judgment for failing to reply or respond to a complaint filed against him or her in a court of law. Such instances usually occur when a plaintiff begins civil litigation against another party. Rules of procedure require that the plaintiff provide a copy of the complaint to the sheriff, who serves the document with summons to the defendant. The summons provides information regarding the time period that the defendant has in order to provide a response. This time period is usually 21 days from the date of service. In the event that the defendant does not provide any response to the complaint but has received the documents, the plaintiff has the right to seek a default judgment from the court where he or she began the proceedings.

Before a default judgment is obtained, the plaintiff must file a copy of the service receipt that the sheriff obtained from the defendant. This becomes evidence that the defendant received the documents and that the defendant was notified of the legal proceedings. The plaintiff then schedules a hearing wherein the judge may hear and approve his or her request.

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