Monday, December 16, 2013

Kentucky default judgment - Answers for non-lawyers

What is a default judgment?

The most common type of default judgment comes about when a defendant debtor is sued but fails to answer and defend against the lawsuit. It is like when a basketball game between two teams has been scheduled, but one team simply fails to show up for the contest. The other team automatically wins by default.

What is the effect of a default judgment?

Generally, a default judgment is treated the same as any other court judgment. If the default judgment says you owe the plaintiff creditor money and interest, all legally available collection efforts, such as wage garnishment, may proceed at the plaintiff’s option.

Can a default judgment be reopened?

The best way to avoid a default judgment is to prevent it from happening in the first place, but Kentucky law provides for setting aside a default judgment in limited circumstances and with a good enough excuse.

How long can you wait to seek relief from a Kentucky default judgment?

The longer you wait, the harder it gets.

Do active military personnel or their families have special protection against default judgment?

Yes. The U. S. Congress passed The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940 (SSCRA), which has been updated over the years, to provide protection to those called to active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or who are deployed.  Reservists and members of the National Guard (when activated under Title 10, United States Code) are also protected under the SSCRA.

I never received notice that a default judgment was entered. Don’t they have to tell me?

No, they do not have to tell you. Your first indication that you have a default judgment may be when your creditor garnishes your bank account. It is always a big shock when this happens.

Do I need to hire a lawyer to seek relief from a Kentucky default judgment?

No. You have the right to represent yourself in court and to proceed without a lawyer. However, the law is complex and a non-lawyer will have a difficult time navigating the legal system alone without expert guidance, but it’s not impossible.

If I succeed in having my default judgment set aside, does that mean my debt is gone?

No. Having a default judgment set aside just brings everything in the lawsuit back to the point before the default judgment was entered against you. You will still need to defend against the plaintiff’s original claim.