A "default judgment" is an order entered when one side does not
appear at trial or file an answer. This is usually not a good thing for
the party who does not show up and who does not get to present their side
to the Court. To protect yourself against a default judgment you must
do two things: (1) if you get served with a lawsuit you must file an answer
and (2) if you get notice of a trial date you must show up.
But hindsight is always 20/20 and default judgments are often taken. If a default judgment has been entered against you the key is to act quickly – don’t wait. Entry of the judgment starts the clock ticking on important post judgment and appellate deadlines. Among the deadlines that you need to meet if you want to try to set said the default judgment are the following:
- 20 days after judgment is entered – deadline to request findings of fact and conclusions of law;
- 30 days after judgment is entered – deadline to file a motion for new trial (asking to set aside the default judgment);
- 90 days after judgment is entered – deadline to file a notice of appeal (provided you file a motion for new trial);
- 6 months after judgment is entered – deadline to file a restricted appeal challenging default judgment.
Consult an attorney immediately if you learn a default judgment has been entered against you. Schedule a consultation as soon as you can to discuss your rights and your options. Don’t wait! Setting aside a default judgment is an uphill battle. You are asking the Court to undo a case that they have finalized and closed. However, it is not an impossible task. The US and Texas Constitutions protect your right to notice and your right to a meaningful opportunity to participate in a trial – especially when it comes to your children and your property.