How Do I Ask the Court to Cancel a Default Judgment?

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If you, the defendant, did not appear at the hearing, the court probably entered a default judgment Opens new window against you.  This means you lost the case.

If you had a very good reason why you did not show up, you may ask the court to cancel (called “vacate”) Opens new window this judgment and hold another hearing. (See California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 116.730) Opens new window

  • If you were properly served Opens new window and did not appear, you have 30 days to file this request. (The 30 days are from the date the court clerk mailed the Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form SC-130) to you.) 
  • If you were improperly served (for example, the plaintiff had an incorrect name for the defendant) and did not appear, you have 180 days to file this request. (The 180 days are from the date you knew – or should have known – that the judgment was entered against you.)

To ask the court to cancel the default judgment

Step 1.
Get and fill out your court form: 

  • Notice of Motion to Vacate Judgment and Declaration (Small Claims)
    (Form SC-135) Opens new window

You must have a good reason for not going to the trial hearing.  If you have documents that prove you had a good reason, such as a letter from a doctor or a hospital bill, attach a photocopy of the document to the Form SC-135. (Take the originals with you to the hearing.) 

Make copies of Form SC-135 – one copy for your files and one copy for each other person or business involved in the case. (The court will keep the original.)

Step 2. File Opens new window the form.

Mail or take Form SC-135, with any attachments, to the courthouse.  A clerk will put the original in the case file and stamp the copies. (If you file your papers by mail, be sure to include the filing fee and a self-addressed, stamped envelope so the court can mail the copy back to you.) 

  • There will be a fee for filing this request. To learn the amount of the fee in California, click hereOpens new window

The court will set a date for a hearing on your motion and will mail a notice of the hearing to both sides.  The hearing will be set for at least 10 days after you filed.

At the new hearing, the judge will decide whether to cancel the judgment or not. 
You, the defendant, will need to bring proof that you had a very good reason to not go to the first hearing (for example, a letter from a doctor or a hospital bill to proved that you were in the hospital and could not attend). 

IF the judge decides to cancel the judgment, he or she may immediately hold a new trial.  Both sides need to be prepared to defend his or her case.

  • Bring evidence or witnesses you need to prove your case. 
  • Be prepared to tell your side of the story.

IF the judge decides NOT to cancel the judgment, it is possible to for the defendant to appeal this decision.

  • The defendant has 10 days to file an appeal.




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