A judgment has been entered against you. What can do to get rid of the judgment? There are a few ways you may be able to rid yourself of the judgment – when working with skilled legal counsel. While these ways will not necessarily work in every case, they may be worth considering.
1. Vacate the judgment
To vacate a judgment, you must have good cause, and your motion must be timely (usually within one year, and the sooner the better). The rules vary depending on what court you are in, but many of the court rules model each other. For instance, the Florida rules are similar to the federal rules and offer several reasons why a judgment may be vacated.
Rule 1.540, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, enumerates the following reasons:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial or rehearing; (3) fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party; (4) that the judgment or decree is void; or (5) that the judgment or decree has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment or decree upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment or decree should have prospective application.
Each of these reasons require specific elements. To navigate the complicated legal landscape, proceeding with a skilled litigation attorney is pretty much essential.
2. Appeal the judgment
Appealing the judgment means taking the decision to a higher level because something was wrong in the court’s decision. However, you must act fast. There is an extremely tight window in which to appeal. In most cases, you have only 30 days to file a notice of appeal. Depending on what court you are appealing to, an appeal requires a lot of legal work. You will need sound reasons and strong arguments to have a judgment overturned on appeal — which is no easy task. However, in some cases it is possible and worth a shot. If appeals never worked, there would be no reason for our appellate courts to exist.
The appellate courts have their own set of procedural rules, which are quite strict, and the appeal process can sometimes seem complicated, which is why it is important to have an experienced appellate attorney. After filing a notice of appeal and paying necessary fees, and ordering the record, the next step is to draft an appellate brief, which is a structured and detailed explanation as to why you deserve an appeal. It includes a summary of facts, a listing of the issues, a legal argument, and a list of cited court opinions. Good appellate briefs generally require many hours of attorney research and skilled writing. After the brief is filed, the opposing party can file a response, then you, the appellant, a reply. Then, sometimes your attorneys can make an oral argument. The appellate court, usually a panel of judges, then reviews all the briefs and makes a decision.
3. Settle or satisfy the judgment
The possibly easiest way to get rid of a judgment is to simply pay it off in full. On the other hand, another way to satisfy the judgment is to reach an agreement with the other party as to how you can pay it. In many cases the judgment holder will agree to accept a lower sum if it means they will actually get paid. The process entails negotiating and reaching an agreement of whatever the parties decide. It could be a negotiated lower rate or a payment plan. The important thing to realize is that settlement is voluntary and involves agreement and compromise.
4. Discharge it through bankruptcy
Finally, you can always resort to bankruptcy. I usually consider this a very last resort — one that would apply only if you’ve weighed all your other options and considered all your debts — not just the judgment. However, for some people, bankruptcy is a strong option. Regardless, it is good to discuss the issue with a bankruptcy attorney you trust. In most cases, however, we usually try to see if any of the top three methods apply.
We can help you determine if these ways can help get rid of a judgment
If a judgment has been entered against you and you want to explore your options, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. Realize, however, that not all judgments are appealable or able to be vacated, and very strict time requirements exist. Therefore, the faster you act, the better.