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If I am being sued, can a judgement be ordered by court if I've never personally received any legal notification or been served?

Orange, CA |

I closed my business a year ago. I have 2 or 3 outstanding business debts (personal guarantees) including a broken lease for my store front. Since then, I have relocated and am "off the grid" - I know one summons was attempted to be delivered to my old address because my ex roommate still lives there.. He told the deliverer that I no longer lived there but he insisted to leave the summons anyway.. So, if my debtors cannot find me... Can a judgement be ordered by the court if I have never personally received any formal legal notification or been served in person?

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Attorney answers 3


It happens too often, that a person has a judgment issued by a court, without first receiving actual service of the lawsuit. It can occur in several ways, and you can check up on this by reviewing your credit reports, or by subscribing to a credit reporting service, or by contacting a court if you suspect there was a judgment issued.
You may have the right to object to the judgment, if called to the attention of the court quickly, and as time goes on, there is less than you can do to go back to that issuing court, although there are several options, including payment, settlement or possibly bankruptcy all of which can end the judgment.
Notice can be served on you, under special circumstances, by substituted service such as leaving the papers at your address, or by publication in a newspaper or other means, as directed by the court, whether you can be found, or not.
Good luck.

General legal advice is offered for educational purposes only. A consultation with a qualified attorney is required to determine specific legal advice as to your situation and applicable law. We are a debt relief agency and we help people file for relief under the bankruptcy laws.


There are ways of serving you, such as publication in a newspaper or serving an adult at your last known residence, where you might have no actual notice.

The burden, however, is on you to promptly make the correct motion to the court to set aside the judgment. By the time execution on the judgment starts it will be too late.

If your "off the grid" and hiding your assets or have no assets you may not care.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


This question comes up frequently. I have written 10 postings on default judgments and 9 postings on service on my blog. The key issue is that for now you are flying low, living underground and having no exposed assets or income (so you believe). In ten years, who knows what you may want to do or own that is attachable by a judgment, which is good for 10 years and can be renewed in consecutive 10 year terms. For most consumers, that is unacceptable and will result in a bunker mentality, which would likely reduce the debtor's lifestyle to become a self-imposed life of a monk.

Good news! When the debtor's income is low and no assets are owned, that is a great time to get a fresh start by having these debts and judgments settled. I have linked below to my Avvo legal guide (number 3 of 3) and my blog on settling a debt collection lawsuit for yourself, which are a good place to get tips, if you are a DIY person.

Many consumers are uncomfortable or find it awkward to do this for themselves with the debt collectors or their lawyers. A debt collection DEFENSE attorney can do this on the debtor's on your behalf. At least find out the costs (which for many consumer lawyers is reasonable) to see if the time is right to put those bad debts to rest.

Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)
Twitter: @RStempler

NOTICE: The above statements are provided for general information purposes only and are not intended as legal advice or advice of any sort for a specific case or legal matter. If you do not have a signed attorney-client fee agreement with the Consumer Law Office of Robert Stempler, APC ("the Firm"), then until such written fee agreement is provided and signed by both a prospective client and attorney for a particular case, neither Mr. Stempler nor the Firm will represent you nor will they be your attorney in any matter and you remain responsible for retaining your own attorney and for compliance with any and all deadlines and for any statutes of limitations that may pertain to potential claims. Comments made on a public forum, such as, to not have any confidentiality because others may read them. If you desire a private consultation with Mr. Stempler that is confidential, please go to and submit a free eCase Review. The result portrayed for a client was dependent on the facts of that case. Results will differ if based on different facts. The Firm and Mr. Stempler are a debt relief agency. The Firm and Mr. Stempler help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.