If you're the target of any type of legal action and you don't show up in court, you run the risk of losing by default. This is called a "default judgment."
Earlier this month, R&B singer and late-night talk show host Brian McKnight learned that lesson the hard way: Because McKnight failed to respond to a paternity lawsuit, a Florida judge has issued a default judgment naming him the father of a 14-year-old boy and ordering him to pay $341,640 in back child support.
Miriam Lee, the mother of the 14 year-old, filed the paternity lawsuit against McKnight in Orange County, Florida, last year. In addition to seeking recognition of her McKnight's paternity of her son, her lawsuit was a child support enforcement action against McKnight. Ms. Lee claimed 14 years of back child support at a rate of $11,388 a month -- to reach a total of $341,640.
McKnight failed to file any documentation challenging Ms. Lee's claims and did not appear in court. As a result, the judge was forced to rule in favor of Ms. Lee on every part of her claim. McKnight is now legally obligated to pay the nearly $350,000 in back child support -- and to continue the payments -- unless he is able to obtain a new or modified order from the judge.
A spokesman for Brian McKnight told TMZ.com that McKnight does not concede he is the father of Ms. Lee's son.
"The judgment in Florida was a default judgment made without Brian present," McKnight's representative said. "He's still looking to establish paternity, and is awaiting the results of a recent test."
Should the paternity test turn out to be negative, McKnight could ask for the case to be reopened.
- "Florida judge says singer McKnight a dad" (United Press International, June 12, 2010)
- "Brian McKnight ... You're the Daddy!" (TMZ.com, June 12, 2010)