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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

Caught in the Default Web? Navigating the New Jersey Court System's Default Procedures

Caught in the default web? Navigating the new jersey court system's default procedures

While many are familiar with legal jargon through popular culture, the intricate details of court processes can be perplexing. A common source of confusion in the New Jersey court system revolves around distinguishing between "entering a default" and a 'motion for a "default judgment." Although they may sound similar and are indeed related, these two stages have distinct implications and procedures. This post delves deeper into these pivotal legal steps, shedding light on their differences, the sequence in which they occur, and the potential ramifications for the parties involved.


"Entering a default" in a court setting typically refers to a procedural step taken when one party (often the defendant) fails to respond to a complaint or does not take required actions within the prescribed time limits. Each jurisdiction may have its own specific rules and procedures related to defaults, but the general principles tend to be similar. In the context of New Jersey courts:

Failure to Respond: If a defendant does not answer a complaint within the time frame specified by the New Jersey Court Rules (typically 35 days, but this might vary in certain cases), the plaintiff can request the court to enter a default.

Procedure: Before default is entered, the plaintiff often needs to show that proper service of the complaint was made to the defendant, that the time for response has expired, and that the defendant has failed to respond.

Consequences: Once a default is entered, the defendant loses the opportunity to contest the factual allegations in the complaint. Essentially, the court considers the facts alleged by the plaintiff to be true. This often leads to the next step: the plaintiff requesting a default judgment.


After a default is entered, the plaintiff can move for a default judgment. This means the court can award the relief or damages sought by the plaintiff without a trial or further input from the defendant.

Setting Aside Default

In some cases, a defendant might have a valid reason for not responding in time (e.g., they were not properly served or had a genuine emergency). If so, they can petition the court to set aside the default. If the court agrees, the defendant will be given an opportunity to file an answer and defend the case. Courts can be more lenient with setting aside defaults if it's clear there was a genuine oversight and if setting it aside wouldn't unduly prejudice the plaintiff.

Importance of Legal Counsel

If someone is at risk of having a default entered against them or if they're trying to get a default set aside, it's crucial to seek legal counsel. An attorney will know the specific rules, deadlines, and procedures to follow in New Jersey courts.

If you or someone you know is involved in a legal case in New Jersey, it's essential to consult with a New Jersey attorney for specific advice related to the situation.

PRO TIP: In New Jersey, a defendant generally has 35 days after being served with the summons and complaint to file an answer or otherwise respond. However, there are exceptions and specific situations where this timeframe may differ:

  • Service Outside of New Jersey: If the defendant was served outside of New Jersey, the defendant may have 60 days to respond.

  • Extensions: In some situations, the parties might agree to extend the time to answer, or the court might grant an extension based on a request from the defendant.

  • Special Circumstances: Different timeframes might apply in particular types of cases, or if specific motions are filed. For instance, if a motion to dismiss is filed in lieu of an answer, it might affect the time you have to respond if the motion is denied.


In the intricate dance of civil litigation, understanding the nuances of defaults and default judgments is crucial. These steps, while procedural, can dramatically shift the dynamics of a case, turning potential defenses into silent bystanders. For those embroiled in legal proceedings in New Jersey or anywhere else, remember that each missed step or unheeded deadline can set a cascade of events into motion. In the realm of the law, knowledge truly is power, and timely action, paired with expert counsel, can be the beacon that guides one through the labyrinth of legal complexities.

Do you have questions about civil litigation or defending a lawsuit? If so, contact us today at our Bergen County Office. Call Us at (201) 904-2211 or email Us at


If you would like more information about this post or if you want to discuss your legal matter with an attorney at the Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont, please contact me at or at (201) 904-2211. Don't forget to check out and subscribe to our podcast and YouTube channel. We have hundreds of podcasts and videos concerning a variety of business and legal topics. I look forward to answering any questions that you might have.

About Peter Lamont, Esq.

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website and post are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions. The contents of this website and the posting and viewing of the information on this website should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal or tax advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. Nothing on this website is an offer to represent you, and nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney‑client relationship. An attorney-client relationship may only be established through direct attorney‑to‑client communication that is confirmed by the execution of an engagement agreement.

As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state, as certain rules differ in other states.

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