Judgments are decisions of a court regarding matters of fact and law. In layman’s terms, you ask the court to settle your dispute by filing a request termed a petition. The petition is simply the legal document that tells the court why you believe they have jurisdiction to consider the matter, and why you have been wronged.
This article will focus on money disputes involving debts. You believe someone owes you money either because they did not pay for services or product rendered. After attempting to settle the dispute without involving the judicial system, you conclude assistance from the courts is needed.
You and/or your attorney decide which court is most appropriate for filing based on factors such as the amount of money in dispute, the number of parties, location of the parties, and other factors. Most debt disputes are filed in small claims courts such as the justice of the peace, county civil courts, or district courts, although some are filed in the federal courts. (The before mentioned court names are typical in Texas and vary somewhat from state to state and country to country.) To file suit in federal court over a debt typically requires a dispute involving more than $100,000 and “diversity of parties” (a legal term meaning “parties in more than two states”).
After you file your petition, the other side may or may not respond. If they do not respond, you may probably be awarded a default judgment. If they do respond, there are three basic options available to both of you.; (1) you can settle the matter, (2) go to trial, or (3) receive a default judgment if they do not show up for trial.
Each party has the opportunity to ask the other for information through requests for documents, written questions and in-person depositions. This process is called discovery. Discovery is often the most expensive aspect of litigation. It can also be the most intrusive if the other party asks for voluminous documents or numerous depositions.
Some parties use discovery as a weapon to discourage litigation, or to make it too expensive. However, if you are owed money and the facts are straight-forward, there is no reason to expend extensive resources on discovery.
After discovery has been completed, the case is either dismissed, settled, adjudged before trial through a motion for summary judgment, or go to trial. If the case is dismissed, there is no judgment. There can be an agreed judgment as part of a settlement. If the case goes to trial, there will be a judgment. (If one party does not appear, it is a default judgment.)
A default judgment is the process for getting a court judgment. However, the court does not collect the judgment for you. The court judgment is simply a legal conclusion that you are owed money by another party or parties.
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