In many states, a default occurs when the defendant does not file an Answer to the complaint on time. If this happens the plaintiff can request that the court enter this default on the record so the case can proceed without the defendant's participation. Usually, court rules require this request to be in the form of a motion in writing with a copy sent to the defendant's address to put him/her on notice that the case is proceeding. Then, depending on the type of case, the court moves into the "proof" phase, where plaintiff submits proof of the claim in order to get the judgment demanded. The court will not enter the judgment demanded just because defendant did not object to it. In cases of debts, most courts accept a simple sworn affidavit attesting to the amount owed. If the court is satisfied, judgment will be entered. If it is the kind of case where proof is not so easily done, as in divorce cases, a proof hearing is set up and plaintiff appears and gives proofs from the witness stand. Again, judgment will not be entered unless proper proofs are on the record. Most states allow a defendant to make a request that the default be set aside and allow defendant to file an answer. This is usually granted to give defendant his day in court if there were some reasonable excuse for the delay. Courts even allow defendants to make requests to re-open the case if a default judgment has been entered, but this is usually done only when there is some reasonable excuse together with a meritorious defense. Each state and federal court has its own rules governing this whole process so you must check those to find out exactly what your state does.
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