In my last blog post, I explained why a party being sued in a divorce (typically called the “Respondent”) should stay involved in the case, or risk having a default judgment entered against him or her. However, even if the judge enters a default judgment against you for failing to appear and respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, all hope is not lost. Pursuant to the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, a party may vacate a default judgment within thirty (30) days of the entry of the default judgment. Vacating the default judgment means the Judge would undo the default judgment, and make it as if it were never entered. If the Judge vacates the default, the case will move forward as if the judgment had not been entered, but you will need to continue to participate in the case or risk being defaulted again.
Vacating a default judgment is not as simple as just asking the court to vacate the judgment and let you participate in the case. First, if you discover a default judgment has been entered against you, it is very important that you act quickly. Except for some limited circumstances that we will not discuss here, you may only vacate a default judgment if you have requested the court to do so within thirty (30) days of the judgment being entered. Second, you cannot simply go to court and ask the judge to do this. Rather, you must file a motion to vacate the default judgment within 30 days of its entry, and present it to the court. Should the Judge grant your motion and vacate the default, you will then need to immediately file your appearance and response to the petition for dissolution of marriage, and remain involved in the case until it is over. Otherwise, you risk having another default judgment entered against you.
If you've had a default judgment entered against you, it is important that you act fast. A motion to vacate a default judgment is a very technical document that must contain certain allegations and be timely filed. If you have had a default judgment entered against you and need help vacating it, feel free to contact our office for your free consultation.