What Happens After a Default Judgment Is Issued?

Answer: After a judgment of default is issued, the party who sought the default offers the finalizing documents awarding the party the relief sought, and then can move forward to enforce the judgment.

In the article that follows, we’ll explain.

What Happens After a Default Judgment Is Issued? (Explained)


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Introduction To The Default Judgment Process

In obtaining a default judgment, there are a few steps.

First, the party seeking the default must file a motion requesting the default order, and provide the evidence in support of the order (usually a sworn affidavit).

Then the court, after considering the the motion for the default and the affidavit, grants the motion and orders the non-responding party to be in default.

When people refer to a “default judgment” they may be referring to the actual decision that the court makes ordering that the non-responding party is in default, or they may be referring to the actual relief ordered by default.

When we say “relief ordered” we mean the claims the party made for money, action, conclusion of law, etc.

Thus, if the order of default does not include an order granting the party the specific things he asked for, then there will usually be a second stage.

The second stage is the entry of the judgment granting the party the relief it sought before the non-responding party was defaulted.

In any event, at the conclusion of the default process, the party receives a judgment granting him the money, action, or declaration he sought.

The party can treat the court case like “he won.”

Post-Judgment Waiting

In most states, the parties have 30 days to file an appeal.

For this reason, many parties wait to begin efforts to enforce the judgment until it is clear that no appeals will be filed, and no motions to set aside the default judgment due to mistake will be filed.

In other cases (like for orders of eviction), the parties may start the process to move to execute on the judgment that same day.

Enforcing The Default Judgment

What happens next depends on the relief received by the party.

Regardless, nothing generally happens automatically.

For example, let’s say that a plaintiff received a judgment by default against the defendant for $100,000.

Upon entry of that judgment granting the $100,000, that money does not fly magically into the bank account of the plaintiff.

After all, the bank doesn’t know about it, and isn’t a party to the case.

The judgment gives the plaintiff the legal rights to $100,000 of the defendant’s money, but additional steps are required for the plaintiff to obtain it.

The plaintiff cannot go down the street and wave the judgment at the bank to get the money.

Instead, the plaintiff will have to start trying to collect on the judgment.

Initially, the plaintiff might do some of the following:

  • Record a lien against the defaulted party’s real estate
  • Send a demand letter to the defaulted party asking for payment
  • File a motion with the court to compel a debtor’s exam, to discover all of the property the defaulted party owns and where it is located (like which checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement accounts, real property, stocks, bonds, and other assets)
  • Agree to a payment plan
  • Seek the assistance of a professional collection agency
  • File a garnishment proceeding to compel financial institutions to turn over funds
  • Initial a foreclosure proceeding to try and force the sale of a particular piece of property

If the default judgment involved possession of a piece of property, again, the winning party will have to follow the rules about executing on it.

The lawful owner can’t go in and kick the door down.

Instead, he’ll have to follow the procedures set forth in the order or in the state to compel the party to leave if he won’t leave voluntarily.

Getting Help

Even if an individual is able to get through the entire court process to a default without the assistance of counsel, he may appreciate the guidance of an attorney who specializes in collections work.

Forcible Entry Detailers (FED actions), garnishments, and foreclosures are heavily governed by statutes and missing a step can dramatically extend the amount of time it takes to collect or enforce a judgment.

Even an initial consult at the beginning of the process can help guide an individual through the process and help them understand what to expect.

Wrap Up

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What Happens After a Default Judgment Is Issued