Tag: 21 days

What are the Steps for Getting Divorced in Utah?

What are the Steps for Getting Divorced in Utah?

To start the divorce process, you must begin by filing what is called a complaint or a petition for divorce with the court. This means you are suing your spouse for a divorce. Don’t let the term “suing” frighten you or your spouse. “To sue” means to institute legal proceedings against your spouse. That’s all.

Then your complaint or petition for divorce is served on (or officially delivered to) your spouse, usually by a law enforcement officer or a private process server. You can also waive personal service by a law enforcement officer or process server and just accept service by signing a simply accepting the documents without the need for personal service.

If you and your spouse agree to the terms of your divorce, also known as an “uncontested divorce,” the issue of “service of process” doesn’t come up because you submit voluntarily to the jurisdiction of the court by signing and filing with the court your divorce settlement agreement and other documents that indicate you recognize you are subject to the to the jurisdiction of the court.

If you’re the one seeking a divorce and the one who filed for divorce, your spouse has 21 days to respond to the complaint for divorce or 30 days to respond if your spouse is served outside of the state of Utah.

The name for the response to a complaint for divorce is an “answer”. If you wish to countersue your spouse for divorce after you get served with a petition or complaint for divorce, you can file an “answer and counterclaim”.

How the case proceeds from this point could take various routes:

  • At any point during the pendency of the case, as long as the trial has not concluded and the court issued its decree and orders, you and your spouse can reach a settlement agreement.
  • After the complaint and answer or answer and counterclaim are filed, the parties have to exchange some initial financial information and information about the evidence each party has and what witnesses the parties might call to testify at trial.
  • Then the parties have 180 days to conduct discovery. The purpose of discovery is to obtain facts and information that will reveal the truth in a matter and help both parties and the court determine what’s truly in dispute and what is not. After discovery closes, then the case is almost ready to take to trial, but not quite.
  • Before a divorce case can go to trial in Utah the parties must first to go mediation and try to settle the case (if the parties don’t want to go to mediation they can ask the court to waive the mediation requirement “for good cause,” but it’s not easy to get the court to find good cause to waive mediation. Most couples go to mediation, even if they think it won’t work, if for no other reason than to check the “we went to mediation” box, so that they can get to trial.
  • After discovery closes and mediation is completed, either party can certify the case as read for trial.
  • Then the court schedules one or more pretrial conferences to prepare for trial, set a trial date, the number of day the trial will take, and other matters.
  • After trial, the court can take up to 60 days to issue its decision on the case, after which one of the parties’ respective attorneys is ordered to prepare the Decree of Divorce for the court’s signature.

That’s the Utah divorce process in a nutshell.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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My attorney just dropped me. What do I do now?

My attorney just dropped me. What do I do now?

My attorney in a civil matter dropped me and I just found out yesterday that I have 21 days to get a new attorney, and my time is up in 3 days. Is there any way to get an extension for this? 

I had to write this quickly because I wanted you to see my answer as soon as possible: 

My answer: Maybe. I’d contact the opposing attorney and ask for an extension. I would call and ask. You will likely be told “the attorney can’t come to the phone,” so I would then follow up my call with an email seeking an extension to find substitute counsel explaining that you learned today that you only have 3 days left of the 21 days (and explain why you just found out and why you couldn’t have taken care of this sooner). You’ll want that e-mail to document the fact that you tried to get opposing counsel to agree to you receiving a reasonable extension of time. 

Then I would notify the court with the same thing, i.e., explaining to the court clerk that you learned today that you only have 3 days left of the 21 days (and explain why you just found out and why you couldn’t have taken care of this sooner). It’s doubtful that the court clerk can do anything to give you more time, but it’s important to document that you gave notice and that you informed the clerk of your efforts. 

Then I would do my best to find a new lawyer within 3 days and ensure that that attorney files a notice of appearance as your counsel within that 3 days. This is serious. Failure to comply with the deadline or to obtain—in writing—an extension of the deadline could have some potentially serious and irreparable adverse effects on your case. 

If you believe or know that for some reason you absolutely cannot get a new attorney before the 21-day period expires, you may wish to file a motion with the court to request an extension of time (a reasonably extension, I’d say around 7–10 days at most). Just because you filed the motion does not mean that your request will automatically be granted, so don’t make the mistake of believing that “ask and it shall be given.” 

The safest course of action is to get a new lawyer to enter an appearance as your counsel before the time expires. 

Finally, remember this: in the jurisdiction where I practice law (Utah), a litigant is not required to get a new lawyer. What I mean is: if your lawyer drops you as a client and withdraws as your counsel and you want to proceed on your own in the case, representing yourself, you can do that. You would need to file with the court a notice that you are choosing to proceed without counsel and to represent yourself in the case going forward. See Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 74. After you have done that, if in the future you determine you want or need a lawyer, you can hire a lawyer at your discretion and on your own timetable. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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