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  • Writer's pictureWayne Gill

Why Consent Judgments Make Sense

There are a limited number of ways to obtain a money judgment in the state of Florida, or most states for that matter. Typically, you can obtain a "Judgment On The Pleadings," where the defendant (intentionally or unintentionally) files a response which entitles you to a judgment.

You can also obtain a "Default Judgment," where the defendant fails to respond to your complaint in the time allotted by the court, thereby triggering a default and your entitlement to a judgment based on that default.

A third avenue is by "Summary Judgment," where the defendant may, in fact, file papers in opposition to your entitlement, but the court may decide that the opposition is not material (does not impede) your right to a judgment.

The fourth way is to take your matter all the way to a "Trial" before a judge or a jury. In such cases you will have to present evidence as to why you're entitled to a judgment and the court will decide the matter in a final proceeding or trial.

Regardless of which avenue you or your counsel takes, each choice involves filing a lawsuit, petitioning the court for entry of your judgment, and then attending a proceeding to actually obtain the judgment. Collecting money on the judgment you receive is a completely different process which begins after you've gotten the paper in hand.

What if you could avoid some of this red tape and actually obtain your judgment and a payment plan from the defendant, without the need for a trial or so much as a court hearing?

This is possible through an available, but potentially overlooked device called a "Consent Judgment." This is also referred to commonly as an "Agreed Judgment" or a "Stipulated Judgment." It is the fifth and truly advantageous method of obtaining AND potentially getting paid on your judgment.

Obtaining a consent judgment differs in methodology from the others above primarily in this way: it's a negotiated outcome between the parties. In other words, the parties can negotiate and agree upon the terms of the judgment, including payment alternatives. Because you still receive a bonafide judgment, your payment plan can have some real teeth.

By talking the matter out and negotiating a mutually desired outcome, the parties can avoid the hassle of multiple court hearings, legal wrangling, and opportunity cost. The reason why you may have never heard of this method or why it's not properly leveraged, even by counsel, is because it's counter-intuitive.

Once the parties are engaged in a case that is progressing toward a judgment, the common approach is to move ahead "guns blazing." However, the shrewd practitioner will always seek to obtain the best recovery with the least amount of legal costs and headaches for the client.

That's the power of the consent judgment. Get your deal done and move on. You've got enough work to do.

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