A Motion to Vacate Judgment is a specific request for the court to withdraw its judgment or order that it previously entered. Generally, a motion to vacate judgment may be granted to a party that can show that it didn’t have a proper chance to present or prove their case. Such motions may be common in major family law cases such as those involving divorce, child custody/visitation, and other issues.

A motion to vacate must be filed within a reasonable time after the judgment was issued. Depending on the legal issue, it could range anywhere from 30 days to 1 year; check with a lawyer to ensure that your filing of the motion will be considered timely. Also, the motion must be based on a valid legal reason. If the motion is filed and the court considers it to be "frivolous", they might dismiss the motion and order the person to pay the other party’s legal costs and attorney’s fees.

When Can a Motion to Vacate Judgment Be Granted?

Probably the most common situation in which a motion to vacate judgment is when the person or party did not receive proper notice regarding the lawsuit or legal actions. Other situations in which a motion to vacate judgment might be granted include:

  • Clerical mistakes (such as oversights, omissions, etc.)
  • Erroneous proceedings against a minor or person deemed to be of unsound mind
  • Newly discovered evidence which couldn’t have been discovered in time to justify a new trial
  • Fraud, misrepresentation or any other type of misconduct by the opposing party
  • The judgment is considered void or has already been satisfied
  • A death of one of the parties before the judgment was completed
  • Unavoidable casualties which prevented a party from prosecuting or defending
  • Any other reason that might justify a relief from the judgment

These are based mostly on guidelines found in Civil Rule 60. State laws might also provide guidelines regarding motions to vacate. Also, details may vary depending on the case (for instance, criteria may be different for motions in a spousal support case compared to a child support case, etc.).

What Are the Steps for Filing a Motion to Vacate Judgment?

First, you’d need to secure the various forms and documents needed for filing the motion. These are generally provided by the court. After this, you would need to fill out the forms and obtain the proper signatures (usually from a judge or commissioner). Next, you would need to file and deliver the papers and serve the other party.

Be sure to make and retain copies for your records. There will also be a hearing associated with the motion. As mentioned, make sure there is a sound legal basis for the motion; otherwise, the motion may be denied and you may even be responsible for additional legal fees for the other party.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Motion to Vacate Judgment?

Filing a motion to vacate a judgment or vacate an order is a major task. You may need to hire a child custody lawyer in your area if you’re considering filing such a motion. Remember, motions to vacate judgment can only be filed for valid legal reasons. Your attorney can research the laws in your area to determine what your options are in terms of motions. Also, your lawyer can help file the motion and can represent you during any additional hearings.