Marshall, MI asked in Contracts, Family Law, Civil Litigation and Constitutional Law for Michigan

Q: What can I do if I was denied the right to file a motion to dismiss a default judgment, which resulted in me now…

Losing my home? I had a default judgment rolled against me on July 7 and attempted to file a motion to dismiss on July 13. The court clerk refused to accept my dismissal, claiming that I did not have the 21 days I was told I only had seven. This directly led to me now losing my home. What can I do at this point? I was also never served any type of formal judgment by the court, so I had absolutely no idea what the consequences even were against me, and now they are trying to tell me I have three days to leave my home.

1 Lawyer Answer
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: You need a lawyer; and you likely needed a lawyer months ago.

As happens when people try to represent themselves, you are unaware of the proper procedures and court rules. Filing whatever you think is proper whenever you think it should be filed is not how this works.

You have a default judgment against you. That means that, at least to the court, you did not file a written answer or otherwise appear and defend within the requisite period of time after being served with the complaint. A lot depends on how you were initially served (e.g. process server, certified mail, or posting), but suffice it say that once you were initially served, it's your obligation to inform the court and opposing counsel of your whereabouts, and to keep apprised of court dates. Once you're served, the opposing party's and the court's obligation is simply to send you stuff to your last known address on file. It is no one's obligation to make sure you actually receive it.

Further, and more to the point of your question now, the court has no obligation to explain to you what's happening and what to do. That is where attorneys come in handy.

The default judgment means that the party who obtained it gets what they were asking for because, again, you didn't file a written response or appear to defend yourself. Once a judgment is entered, that means to the court that the case is closed. The only thing you can do is set aside the default judgment. There are rules, timelines, and procedures for doing that, and if YOU don't follow those, the court CANNOT set it aside. Setting it aside simply means you go back to active litigation - it does not mean you win.

In landlord-tenant matters, the timelines are sped up. Again, this is where people representing themselves go wrong: you would be correct that 21-days is ordinarily the time frame; but that's not the case in landlord-tenant matters. Represented or not, if you don't meet the timelines, you lose. Whatever other arguments you have, even if there's merit to them, doesn't matter.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.