In my divorce agreement it clearly states, "The parties agree that if at anytime they are unable to resolve their conflicts with respect to financial or visitation issues they will mediate such issues prior to any litigation." It has been over 10 years and my ex husband has never said a word to me about there being a problem with either of these issues. A few days ago however, I was served with papers stating that he is bringing a lawsuit against me regarding child support & visitation issues. He has hired a lawyer (which he is wanting me to pay for-I certainly cannot afford) and it says I have 20 days to respond. -Is there a way to enforce the fact that we agreed that we would first go the route of mediation? How do I do that if he has already filed papers to the court through a lawyer?
Your ex-husband should have requested mediation prior to filing for a modification. If you refused the request then it would have been appropriate to seek judicial action. Even though he did not do it properly you cannot ignore the Summons. You must respond within 20 days. My response would be a Motion to Dismiss for failure to meet a condition precedent.
Seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.
The above is opinion based on very limited facts and not legal advice. This is not a substitute for a consultation with an attorney and does not constitute the establishment of an attorney/client relationship.
Family Law Attorney
If you have received pleadings indicating that you have 20 days to represent, most likely they have been filed with the court. You need to hire your own counsel and ask that the court enforce the mediation provision and stay any court proceedings until mediation has been concluded.
Please note that I am answering this question as a service through Avvo but not as your attorney and no attorney-client relationship is established by this posting. An attorney-client relationship can only be established through signing a Fee Agreement and paying the necessary advanced fees.
Family Law Attorney
I agree with the other attorneys who have answered your question. Once you are served, and it sounds like you were, you must answer within 20 days or risk the entry of a default. The proper manner to enforce the mediation requirement would be to file the Motion to Dismiss and then have a letter sent to his attorney regarding the mediation requirement. As a warning, to do a meaningful mediation, you both would have to have already completed updated financial affidavits and provided what we call "mandatory disclosure" (financial documents to back up the affidavit.) Without those documents, mediation for financial issues would be a waste of time.
You should immediately seek legal counsel from an experienced family law attorney in the area. A consultation is the best money you will spend.
Sandra K. Ambrose
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
As my colleagues stated - you MUST respond to the summons within 20 days. Please feel free to contact my Orlando office at 407-354-5223 for a free consultation if you are still in need of legal representation. I would be more than happy to assist you.
You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation since every case is different and not all information is relayed in an online question. The Law Office of Ophelia Bernal-Mora, P.A. is a family & criminal law firm located in Orlando, Florida, we invite you to contact us and welcome your calls at 407-354-5223. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.