If you have already participated in pre-filing mediation, you may have questions such as, “What do I do with this agreement? What happens if the other party doesn’t comply? Is my agreement enforceable by the court? What if we didn’t reach an agreement? What steps do I take next?”…
The Citizen Dispute Settlement Program is not a self-help legal clinic, and neither the mediator nor program staff can give you legal advice. The following information is to assist in answering some of your questions, but it is not intended to be a substitution for professional legal advice. Additionally, this information only pertains to disputes that would fall within the Small Claims jurisdiction of the County Court. If your claim exceeds $5,000, you should consult with an attorney.
If one or both parties fail to comply with the agreement, it will be necessary to file a lawsuit against the non-compliant party to obtain relief from the court. The person filing the complaint, the “plaintiff,” must file the appropriate legal pleadings with the Clerk of the Court and serve the papers on the other party, the “defendant.” Because both parties have submitted to certain obligations and responsibilities in writing, that agreement can be submitted to the court as evidence supporting your complaint.
Both parties will be required to attend a Pre-Trial Conference where the defendant will be asked if he or she admits to or denies the plaintiff’s claim. If the claim is denied, the parties will be asked to try to resolve the matter by immediately meeting with a mediator. If you settle the case in mediation, both parties will sign another agreement called a “stipulation.” The parties may agree to the same, different, or additional terms as in the pre-filing mediation agreement, such as provisions to address accrued interest or the costs associated with filing the lawsuit, as well as provisions to facilitate compliance.
This stipulation will be signed by the judge, filed with the Clerk of Court, and the court will close the case. Once approved by the judge, the stipulation is enforceable as a court order.
As long as the stipulation is honored, the lawsuit will not go any further. If the defendant fails to comply with the stipulation, the plaintiff is entitled to a “Judgment” against the defendant. The plaintiff must file with the clerk an affidavit stating how the defendant failed to comply and the amount of money requested of the judgment. There are clerk fees associated with obtaining a judgment in these circumstances.
The appearance at the Pre-Trial Conference and meeting with the mediator is mandatory by court order. However, the mediator will explain to you that mediation is a voluntary process and that neither party is required to enter into an agreement, and that both parties have the right to have their case heard by the judge.
After the court has awarded you a Judgment against the defendant, and if the defendant does not pay, you may be entitled to the following enforcement options:
But, there are a number of steps you must take and various costs associated with each of these enforcement options.
Court employees and the clerk staff are not permitted to give you legal advice about how to collect a judgment. It is wise to consult with an attorney about this process and the limitations to collecting a judgment. You will find forms and detailed information on the Florida Department of State’s website at: http://www.sunbiz.org/jlien_info.html.