Plaintiff turned defendant, unsatisfied with atty

Dear OnTheUp:

Greetings. I am sorry to hear about your situation. Generally the majority of cases resolve in mediation. Let’s answer your questions:

  1. If you have been served with a complaint YOU MUST ANSWER and make your claims. Yes, you will be waiving your claims if you fail to answer.

  2. If you have a separation agreement, which I am assuming is the SPSA(?), then it cannot generally be changed.

  3. I cannot advise you on having an attorney. I always think attorneys are appropriate and necessary, but I am not sure what point in the case you are in. That portion was unclear and I am not sure what a SPSA is. If it is a separation agreement, then you may not need anything else. I suggest that you take your agreement to a different attorney for a simply consultation.

  4. Depends on if you waived the claim in the agreement or not.

  5. Yes, you should file for an extension - there is still time.

Thank you.

Janet L. Fritts
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
919.787.6668 main phone
919.256.1665 direct fax

301 McCullough Drive Suite 510
Charlotte, North Carolina 28262
704.644.2831 main voice
704.307.4595 main fax

1829 East Franklin Street, Bldg 600
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
919.321.0780 main phone
919.787.6668 main fax


The response posted above is based upon the limited factual information made available and is not intended as a full and complete response to the question. The only reliable manner to obtain complete and adequate legal advice is to consult with an attorney, fully explain your situation, and allow the attorney sufficient opportunity to research the applicable law and facts required to render an accurate opinion. The basic information provided above is intended as a public service but a full discussion with an attorney should be undertaken before taking any action.

Background: I left my husband for many reasons, and he thinks I left for another man. There was no physical affair although maybe he could try to claim alienation of affection. We were married for over 6 years, had separated once before for a number of months, did not have very much to divide and had no children.

Under duress, and not understanding the timeline, I quickly retained the first attorney that returned my calls from the referrals I had been given. I was told by many that I didn’t need an attorney that was sharky, just competent. When my husband learned that I retained an attorney, he went through the roof and ultimately retained one of the two top divorce attorneys in our area.

He is very cheap, and so consented to mediation instead of paying for his attorney’s time. My attorney thought we could benefit from mediation. Ultimately the gentleman of our mediation pair excused himself because he believed that the ED we were working on from December through February (at least once a week for 3 hours) was not fair; he was no longer impartial and my spouse was not acting in the “spirit of mediation”.

I was so frustrated with the brick wall that I was banging my head against during mediation that I was saying “regaining my life is worth more than money” and the remaining issues I conceded to whatever he wanted. I stopped fighting the points and ultimately ended up with a SPSA that states we will sell the marital residence and divide the equity equally (with stipulations about real estate comissions since I am a RE Agent), I end up with some of the marital debt (he is marital debt free), and I have to pay him a lump sum when the residence sells. He/his company is covering my health insurance until we are divorced but I have to reimburse him for half.

During the marriage I was a student (1.5 years), became gainfully employed and quickly surpassed his income (4 years), then left my line of work for sales and quickly dropped to no/low income for roughly 7 months before I left.

When working with my attorney, I paid a consult fee and paid a retainer. I was getting ready to start making payments when my “year and a day” rolled around and I started emailing my attorney. My attorney refused to do more work for me until I cleared my balance (roughly $2000) and provided an additional retainer. Again, frustrated and feeling pressed for time, instead of responding I spent more time trying to figure out how to start the divorce proceedings. Ultimately my spouse agreed to have his attorney file.

(There is a question in here I promise)

Now I have been served with a generic complaint which does not have any claims for relief.

Here are my questions:

  1. Do I need to be concerned about the lack of relief requests in the complaint? Am I waiving anything by not contesting this complaint? Do I have to use a form letter to respond or can I write a letter stating that I do not intend to contest the divorce.

  2. At this point can changes be made to the SPSA? If changes are possible, once the divorce is final can no more changes be made to the SPSA?

  3. Although I understand the principle that my attorney does not want to continue to do pro bono work, any suggestions about what can I do about representation? Even if I were paid in full, is it worth it to switch now? There are two attorneys that I would prefer.

  4. On selling the marital residence: I left in September. He changed the locks and then moved out in October and refused to let me back in unaccompanied until January or February. We could have put the residence on the market in October – it was a given that we would have to sell – and he refused to agree to a listing agreement until February and didn’t sign one until May. Essentially, he refused to sign a listing agreement until the SPSA was complete. His refusal was directly impacting my earning potential. Considering this, and my financial contribution during the marriage, do I have any reason to try for PSS/alimony? The marital residence is an ocean front beach condo, the market was starting to flatten from the time I moved out and now I don’t forsee it selling anytime before the coming Spring.

  5. I am afraid of doing something “wrong” and thereby shooting myself in the foot. The complaint was filed Oct 12, I received it last week and the clock is ticking. I am wondering if I should file an extension.

I know this is lengthy, and truly appreciate the time and resources the Rosen firm contributes to the community. I have referred back to the site numerous times through this process. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.