Default Judgments In Florida

In a child custody proceeding, a judgment can be issued against a party who fails to appear at a final hearing. However, the party failing to appear can challenge the proceeding under Rule 1.540(b). “This case, however, was not decided upon a default but upon a full hearing with witnesses and substantial evidence. The mother simply failed to show up at the hearing. She did not move to vacate the proceedings pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540(b) and has offered no reason, either in the trial court or in this court, as to why she absented herself from the hearing after receiving notice… This would be contrary to the best interest of the child. A parent should have the right to move to vacate a final custody judgment on the grounds allowed by Rule 1.540(b). At the hearing on the Rule 1.540(b) motion, the court may consider the absent party’ s grounds for failing to appear and hear any evidence that the party may have that would involve the party’s “meritorious defense” to the proceedings. See Webber v. Novelli, 756 So. 2d 164,165-66 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000) (noting that the trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the mother’s failure to attend). See also Elliott v. Aurora Loan Servs.,LLC,3l So. 3d 304,307 (Fla. 4thDCA 2010) (stating that to set aside judgment, the trial court must find that the movant has demonstrated excusable neglect, a meritorious defense, and due diligence in seeking relief).” Denker v. Denker