GENERAL PROCESS

Chapter 3 General Divorce Process and Serving Documents

Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. (https://www.utcourts.gov/resources/rules/urcp/)

Rules 3, 4, 5, 6 (Commencement of Action; Service of Process, Pleadings, Motions and Orders)

How to begin a divorce

The court must have jurisdiction over the parties; and if there are children, over the children as well.  If the jurisdiction and residency requirements are met then a person may begin the divorce process by preparing a ‘petition’ and other required documents to be filed with the court. The person initiating the divorce is known as the ‘Petitioner’, and the person answering the divorce is known as the ‘Respondent’. The court charges a fee for filing a Petition for Divorce ($300.00) and another fee for the Vital Statistics Form (Health and Human Services document) ($18.00).  If you cannot afford these fees, you may file additional documentation and request the court to waive those fees.

Serving the documents

Upon filing the documents with the court, the Petitioner must serve the following documents on the Respondent within 120 days of the filing:

-Petition for Divorce (and Parenting Plan, if children)
-Summons, Acceptance of Service, Appearance, Consent to Entry of Default
-Additional documents as required (Notice of Divorce Education (if children), Notice Rule 26.1)

Other documents with private information are required to be filed with the court at this time as well:

-Vital Statistics Form
-Party Information Form
-Child Locator Form (if children)

In order to property give notice to the Respondent of your petition, you must ‘serve’ the Respondent. He/she may be served the documents personally by the sheriff, constable, or duty of either, by a United States Marshal, or his deputy, or by any other person 18 years of age or older at the time of service that is not a party to the action.  Additionally, the summons and complaint may be served by mail or commercial carrier provided the Respondent signs a document showing receipt. In exceptional circumstances, the court may allow service by other means such as email, publication, or other court approved notice.

Once the Respondent is properly served, it is your responsibility to provide ‘proof of service’ to the court by filing a document showing how the Respondent was served. Any and all documents you file with the court require a Certificate (or Proof) of Service. The court will not address your documents unless this is filed.

If the Respondent lives in the state of Utah, he/she will have twenty-one (21) days from the date of service to answer the complaint; or thirty (30) days if he/she resides outside the state of Utah. If the Respondent does not ‘contest’ the petition, he/she may consent to the entry of his/her default by signing a document stating the same. If the Respondent does not answer the petition within the allotted time, the Petitioner may request the court (by filing the appropriate documents) to enter the Respondent’s default and entering the decree pursuant to the terms of the petition.

If the Respondent does agree to the terms, signs the consent to enter his/her default, and all other required documents are filed with the court (and if there are minor children and both parties have taken the required Divorce Education classes), the court will enter a final decree no earlier than ninety (90) days from the date of filing of the petition. You may request the court to ‘waive’ the 90 day waiting period – however, courts are only doing this if there are exceptional circumstances that are shown justifying the request to waive. (See UCA 30-3-18.)

Additional Requirements

If the parties have children, the court requires the parents to attend a divorce education course and to provide proof of attendance to the court before any final decree is entered.

If the parties have children, the court required the parties confirm their incomes by filing a Verification of Income, and submit a child support worksheet.

The court also requires a filed statement (Military Affidavit) describing if either party is in the military.

After ensuring the above requirements, and any other court ordered requirements, are met, the petitioner will prepare the following documents to submit to the court:

-Motion for Respondent’s Default
-Proposed Default Certificate
-Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
-Proposed Decree of Divorce
-Notice to Submit and Request for Entry.

After reviewing the file, and if no further requirements are found by the court, the court will ‘enter’ the Decree of Divorce. The petitioner is required to send a copy of the decree and notice of the entry of decree to the Respondent. Each case is different and there may be other requirements not discussed in this document.

Divorce Note: Make sure you have prepared all the necessary documents before filing with the court. You may use a process server service to have the documents served on the Respondent. Make sure you file a Certificate of Service with the court once the Respondent is served. If you use a process server, they will give you a document called a ‘Return of Service’ that you will attach to your Certificate of Service and file with the court. Make sure you send a copy to the Respondent of every document you file with the court, except for ‘protected information’ documents.