Understanding legal terms in Utah divorce actions

If you’re anything like I am, you don’t like being ignorant and confused about terms aren’t familiar with and do not understand. If you are contemplating divorce or find yourself in the midst of a divorce, you will encounter a lot of new legal terms. Understanding them correctly will help you work your way through a divorce with more confidence and less worry. These videos will introduce you to the terms you will hear and need to understand. In this first video we will define some of the most common terms you’ll read or hear in the beginning stages of a divorce case in Utah. Subsequent videos will provide you with a glossary of other terms in alphabetical order.

Most of the definitions I’ll share with you come from Black’s Law Dictionary.


divorce is the legal ending of a marriage; specifically, the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court. Also termed marital dissolution; dissolution of marriage. A divorce is not the same as an annulment.

divorce action

a divorce action is a lawsuit initiated in court by means of a spouse filing a complaint or petition for a dissolution of the marriage. Sometimes “divorce” is used as an abbreviated form of “divorce action,” such as, “the divorce was filed today” or “the divorce is proceeding in Salt Lake County.”

petition or complaint for divorce

The initial pleading that starts a divorce action and states the basis for the court’s jurisdiction, the basis for the petitioner’s claim, and the relief requested.


a formal document in which a party to a legal proceeding (esp. a civil lawsuit) sets forth or responds to allegations, claims, denials, or defenses.

verified complaint or petition

a complaint or petition for divorce that is signed under oath or affirmation by the petitioner attesting to the truth of the factual allegations in the complaint.


a document that is served on the respondent (see the definition for “service of process”) requiring the respondent to appear and answer a complaint/petition for divorce.

service of process

the formal delivery of a writ, summons, or other legal process, pleading, or notice to a litigant or other party interested in litigation; the legal communication of a judicial process


a party to a divorce action who presents a petition or complaint to a court seeking relief


the party against whom a divorce petition or complaint is filed in court. The respondent “responds” to the petition or complaint for divorce.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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