Yesterday, I blogged about how a County Court lawsuit is started and the basic court process if a matter is uncontested. However, what happens if the association files a lawsuit and the delinquent owner contests the matter by filing an Answer (response) to the lawsuit?
In most counties, once a matter has become contested, the court will require that a trial date be scheduled. Also, most counties require that the parties mediate the dispute prior to attending trial. A mediation is a settlement conference between the association and the delinquent debtor(s). At mediation, an attorney or retired judge acts as a neutral party and attempts to facilitate a settlement between the parties. To encourage a settlement, any statements or communications made at mediation are confidential and cannot be disclosed at trial or any other time. There is no requirement to settle at mediation and, if a resolution cannot be reached, the dispute proceeds to trial on a different date.
More often than not, the trial is conducted before the Judge (also called a ‘bench trial) who hears the evidence from each of the parties and issues a ruling and Judgment. The old saying that ‘there are no guarantees at trial’ is accurate, so it is normally in the parties’ best interest to try to resolve the matter prior to trial.
Stay tuned for a future blog post on the options available to an association to collect a Judgment against a delinquent debtor.