Tag: respondent

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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What happens to a restraining order respondent who misses the hearing?

What happens if you’re a restraining order respondent and you miss the hearing?

There are a few possibilities, and I will address them in the order of what I think would be most likely to occur if A) the restraining order can legally and lawfully be extended; B) the request to extend the restraining order was properly made in compliance with the applicable laws and rules; C) you received proper notice of the hearing; D) you did not appear at your hearing; and E) you are unable to prove that your absence was due to circumstances utterly beyond your control: 

  • the request to extend the restraining order would be granted; or 
  • the court may (but likely won’t) continue the hearing to a later date to give you a second chance to appear; 
  • if you are ordered to appear at the hearing and don’t appear, that could constitute contempt of court, which would Authorize the court to issue a warrant for your arrest to compel you to appear at the hearing (After it is rescheduled to a later date). I’ve never seen a court issue a warrant to compel someone to appear at a hearing for a restraining order or to renew or extend a restraining order because it’s easier for the court simply to renew and extend the protective order than to go to the trouble of having a warrant issued to track you down and compel you to appear in court. And the court can easily justify the decision to extend the protective order due to your failure to appear: 1) you didn’t appear to challenge the request, so one can infer that you have no objection the request; and 2) if you don’t appear in court to defend yourself and/or make objections to the request, then you’ve forfeited that opportunity, and you can’t be surprised if and when the court grants the request. 

I am amazed at the number of people who believe missing hearings is no big deal. If I were ordered or directed to appear in court for a hearing that could have as profound an effect upon me as a restraining order, wild horses couldn’t drag me away from appearing in court, and not just on time, but appearing a few minutes early, to ensure that nothing happened or happened to me in my absence. For two reasons: 

  • A restraining order can have dire effects on your rights to free association and travel and other rights. You want to ensure that you defend those rights to the extent that the state has no valid basis to infringe and interfere with them. 
  • If the restraining order is not only extended but also modified or amended in ways you’re not aware of (because you weren’t there to hear about it), you could innocently find yourself violating the modified/amended order but still being sanctioned or even criminally prosecuted for doing so. You wouldn’t be able to use ignorance of the law (or in this case ignorance of the court’s orders provisions) as a defense.

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

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2022 UT App 15 – Miller v. DaSilva – protective order objections

2022 UT App 15 – Miller v. DaSilva v. Dasilva20220203_20200719_15.pdf




No. 20200719-CA

Filed February 3, 2022

Third District Court, Salt Lake Department

The Honorable Robert P. Faust

No. 204904364

Steve S. Christensen and Clinton Brimhall, Attorneys
for Appellant

Amy Elizabeth Dasilva, Appellee Pro Se

JUDGE DIANA HAGEN authored this Opinion, in which JUDGES

HAGEN, Judge:

¶1        A final judgment on a petition for a cohabitant abuse protective order cannot be entered based on a commissioner’s recommendation until the parties are afforded their statutory right to object. If a timely objection is filed, the objecting party is entitled to a hearing before the district court. In this case, once the commissioner recommended that the protective order be denied and the case dismissed, a final order was immediately entered and the petitioner’s timely objection was subsequently denied without a hearing. Because a final judgment was entered before the time for filing an objection had passed and without holding a hearing on the objection, we vacate the final judgment and remand to the district court to hold the required hearing.


¶2        Lisa Miller petitioned the district court for a cohabitant abuse protective order against her former friend and tenant, Amy Dasilva. A temporary protective order was issued, and a hearing was scheduled before a commissioner. At the conclusion of the hearing, the commissioner made the following findings:

I cannot find that there is sufficient evidence to support a finding that Ms. Da[s]ilva has been stalking Ms. Miller. And I cannot find a fear of ongoing physical harm.[1] And, therefore, I am going to respectfully dismiss the protective order.

A minute entry reflected that the “Commissioner recommends” that the petition “be DENIED and this case be dismissed” because “[t]he evidence does not support the entry of a protective order.”

¶3        That same day, at the direction of a district court judge, the court clerk entered a final order that stated: “This case is dismissed. Any protective orders issued are no longer valid.”

¶4        Miller filed a timely objection to the commissioner’s recommendation, requesting an evidentiary hearing before the district court pursuant to rule 108 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. The next day, the district court denied that objection on the grounds that “dismissal of a protective order . . . is not a matter that is heard by the District Court Judges under Rule 108 as it is not a recommendation of the Commissioner, but rather a final decision.”

¶5        Miller filed a timely notice of appeal.


¶6        The dispositive issue before us is whether, under Utah Code section 78B-7-604(1)(f), the district court was permitted to immediately dismiss the case based on the commissioner’s recommendation and thereafter deny Miller’s objection and request for a hearing. “The proper interpretation and application of a statute is a question of law, and we afford no deference to the trial court in reviewing its interpretation.” Patole v. Marksberry, 2014 UT App 131, ¶ 5, 329 P.3d 53 (cleaned up).


¶7        Under the Cohabitant Abuse Act, the court may issue a protective order without notice to the other party (an ex parte protective order) if it appears from the petition “that domestic abuse has occurred” or is substantially likely to occur. Utah Code Ann. § 78B-7-603(1)(a) (LexisNexis Supp. 2020). If the court issues an ex parte protective order, it must schedule a hearing and provide notice to the respondent. Id. § 78B-7-604(1)(a). After notice and a hearing, the court may issue a cohabitant abuse protective order, which is effective until further order of the court. Id. § 78B-7-604(1)(e). If such an order is not issued, the ex parte protective order expires unless extended by the court. Id. § 78B-7-604(1)(b).

¶8 A commissioner may conduct the required hearing in cohabitant abuse cases and “[m]ake recommendations to the court.” Utah R. Jud. Admin. 6-401(1)–(2)(D). If the hearing takes place before a commissioner, “either the petitioner or respondent may file an objection within 10 days after the day on which the recommended order [is issued by the commissioner] and the assigned judge shall hold a hearing within 20 days after the day on which the objection is filed.”[2] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-7­604(1)(f).

¶9        Here, the district court denied Miller’s objection to the commissioner’s recommendation without holding a hearing. Miller argues this was a “violation of the mandate in Utah Code Ann. § 78B-7-604(1)(f).” We agree.

¶10 In denying Miller’s objection, the court ruled that “dismissal of a protective order” is not a matter that can be heard by the district court under rule 108 because “it is not a recommendation of the commissioner, but rather a final decision.” Because commissioners are prohibited from making “final adjudications,” Utah R. Jud. Admin. 6-401(4)(A), we assume that the district court was referring not to the commissioner’s recommendation, but to the order dismissing the case entered at the direction of a district court judge immediately after the hearing before the commissioner. Even so, the rule expressly provides that “[a] judge’s counter-signature on the commissioner’s recommendation does not affect the review of an objection.” Utah R. Civ. P. 108(a). Once Miller filed a timely objection to the commissioner’s recommendation and a request for hearing, the district court was statutorily required to hold a hearing within twenty days. See Utah Code Ann. § 78B-7­-604(1)(f). The district court erred by denying the objection without holding such a hearing.


¶11 The district court did not have authority to enter a final order dismissing this case before the time for filing an objection to the commissioner’s recommendation had expired. Because Miller filed a timely objection and request for hearing, she was entitled to a hearing before the district court. Accordingly, we vacate the final judgment, reverse the district court’s order denying the objection, and remand for the district court to hold the hearing required by statute.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Does the respondent get a copy of a restraining order?

Yes, the respondent gets one, as long as the respondent can be found so that he/she can be handed, mailed, or electronically provided with a copy. Indeed, if a respondent is not provided with a copy of the restraining order (or not deemed to have been served with a copy), it can be argued that the restraining order cannot be enforced against the respondent, or at least that the respondent cannot be punished for not complying with an order of which he/she had no notice. However, remember that there are two kinds of “notice”. Actual notice and constructive notice. With constructive notice, it is possible to be “deemed” to be on notice without having any personal possession or knowledge of the notice. 

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

Constructive notice legal definition of constructive notice ( 

Actual Notice legal definition of Actual Notice ( 

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Utah Divorce Case Timeline Summary

Utah Divorce Case Timeline Summary

The greatest influence on how long a divorce case takes is usually how much and how severely the parties fight over the issues. The more they fight and the more things they fight over, the longer and more expensive the divorce process is. But here is a general timeline for a Utah divorce, step by step.

Bottom line: Generally speaking, a contested divorce will likely take between 15 months to 24 months. Bitterly contested divorce cases can take many years. An uncontested divorce can take as little as 45-60 days to complete from the date of filing, if the parties agree on everything.


What happens first?

  1. Complaint or petition for divorce is filed (“complaint for divorce” and “petition for divorce” are interchangeable terms). The person who files is the “petitioner”.

What happens next?

  1. Your spouse is served with the summons and a copy of the complaint/petition for divorce. Your spouse is the “respondent”.

When?: The respondent has 21 days to file an “answer” to your complaint. Your spouse will likely not only answer your divorce complaint but also counters through you which is known as a counterclaim.

You will then have 21 days to respond to the counterclaim after it is served on you (and if you have an attorney the counterclaim will be sent to your attorney, and your attorney should provide you with a copy of it).

What happens next?

  1. Financial declaration and initial disclosures. After the complaint have been filed with the court and served on your spouse and after the parties have responded to each other’s respective complaint and counterclaim for divorce they have to exchange what are known as financial declarations and initial disclosures.

Financial declaration. The financial declaration requires you to identify

      • Whether you are employed and if so, by whom and what you earn from employment.
      • Other forms of income other than income from a job (unearned income).
      • Monthly expenses
      • Business interests, if you have any
      • Financial Assets. A description of your financial assets
      • Real Estate. Identifying any interests in real estate that you own
      • Personal Property. A description of your personal property, such as vehicles, boats, trailers, major equipment, furniture, jewelry, and collectibles
      • Debts Owed. A list of your debts and obligations, what you owe, and who your creditors are.

Initial Disclosures. Your initial disclosures require you to disclose:

      • each individual likely to have discoverable information supporting your claims or defenses
      • each fact witness you may call at trial
      • a copy of all documents, data compilations, electronically stored information, and tangible things in your possession or control that you may offer at trial
      • a copy of all documents to which you refer in your pleadings

When?: The petitioner must serve her financial declaration and initial disclosures 14 days after the answer is filed (that’s a lot of work in a fairly short time, so don’t dillydally if you’re the petitioner). The respondent is required to serve his financial declaration and initial disclosures 28 days after the answer is filed.

What happens next?

  1. Temporary orders. After the answer and counterclaim have been filed with the court, it is typical for the parties to request what are known as “temporary orders” from the court. Temporary orders are put in place to ensure that the leaves and affairs of the family are maintained during the pendency of the divorce action. So temporary orders can include things like responsibility for the mortgage and other expenses associated with the house and family. They can include temporary orders of child custody and parent time and child support and spousal support. Temporary orders can include other provisions as well, depending upon the circumstances and needs of your family.

When?: You soonest you could file for temporary orders is when you file your petition/complaint for divorce. Most people file after the petition/complaint for divorce is filed.

After the motions are file the court usually schedules a hearing within 1 to 3 months of the date the motion was filed.

What happens next?

  1. Discovery. Discovery is the process By which the parties request documents and other evidence from each other to help them get a better understanding of the issues, and to determine what issues are really disputed and which ones aren’t or can’t be disputed. Discovery is used to help the parties gain a better understanding of the issues and to help each party build its strongest case against the other party.

When?: You are allowed 180 days for discovery. The discovery period starts the day after the last day that initial disclosures and financial declarations are due from the respondent.

If you have children and you and your spouse are fighting over child custody: a custody evaluation may be ordered. A custody evaluation is supposed to take 4 months. They almost always take longer. Sometimes the custody evaluation won’t be completed by the time discovery closes. Be prepared for this possibility.

What happens next?

  1. Divorce Orientation and Education Courses. If the divorcing couple has minor children then divorce orientation and education courses are mandatory for both parties. You can learn about and sign up for those courses using this link:

When?: You can take the divorce orientation and education courses any time, even before you file for divorce. Most people sign up for and complete the courses around the time after the answer and the reply to counterclaim have been filed and served.

You cannot obtain a decree of divorce without completing the divorce orientation and education courses or having the requirement to attend them waived (and for most people it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth to try to get the courses waived).

What happens next?

  1. Mediation. You must go to mediation before the case can go trial. Most divorce actions settle and most settle in mediation. If neither party wants to go to mediation or there are circumstances (such as domestic violence) that would not make mediation feasible or worthwhile, the parties can move to waive the mediation requirement.

When?: You can go to mediation any time, even before you file for divorce, although if you go to mediation before you or your spouse file(s) for divorce the court may make you go to mediation again before you will be allowed to go to trial.

So bear in mind that you can go to mediation at any point in the case.

You cannot obtain a decree of divorce without engaging in mediation or having the mediation requirement waived (and for most people it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth to try to get the courses waived).

What happens next?

  1. Trial. If the parties do not settle their case (whether in mediation or on their own), then the case goes to trial.

When?: After discovery has closed (after 180-day discovery period has elapsed), then the case can be certified for trial.

It usually takes at least 2 or 3 months from the time a party requests a trial date to get a trial date. All told, it takes about a year to a year and a half to go from filing for divorce to trial.

It usually takes at least 2 or 3 months from the time a party requests a trial date to get a trial date.

All told, it takes about a year to a year and a half to go from filing for divorce to trial.

What happens next?

  1. After trial, the court will make its decisions as to the issues that were argued over and “tried” in court and then the Decree of Divorce is prepared and the court signs it.

When?: Usually 30 to 60 days after trial.

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

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