If you miss a court date, you might lose the case. This is called having a "default judgment" entered against you.
If you file a motion to undo ("vacate") the default judgment within 30 days, you will probably succeed. If it has been more than 30 days, it is much harder to undo the judgment.
What is a default judgment?
How do I get rid of a default judgment?
If it has been 30 days or less, you can get rid of ("vacate") a default judgment by filing a motion. This is a written request to the judge asking them to throw out the judgment. You will have to send a copy of the motion to the other party in the case, and then show up in court for a hearing. Learn more about filing a motion to vacate a default judgment.
What should my motion say?
Your motion should say the following things:
- That you want the default judgment vacated.
- The date the default was entered.
- Why you missed the court date (car problems, mistakes about date, time, or location, etc.).
- Any arguments or defenses you plan to make if the default judgment is thrown out.
- The date and time of the missed hearing
- The date you learned the default judgment was entered
- The case number for which the default judgment was entered
- What department and division the motion will be filed in
- The plaintiff’s address and phone number (or their lawyer's, if they have one)
- Your address and phone number
- When you will deliver or mail the Motion and Notice of Motion to the plaintiff (this is the "Proof of Delivery" section of the forms)
Our vacate default judgment program will help you fill out the forms. It will help you make sure you include all of the needed information.
What happens if I don't do anything?
A default judgment is much harder to undo after 30 days have passed. After 2 years, it is basically impossible.
The plaintiff can collect on the judgment by taking many different actions, including:
- Garnishing your wages,
- Freezing your bank account, and
- Getting liens against your property.
The judgment will also show up on your credit report and will hurt your credit score.
Will I go to jail if I miss a court date?
Only if you received papers saying that you are ordered to appear. For most court dates, losing by default is the worst that can happen.
Updated: June 2018