Finding Legal Help
You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help.
Como encontrar ayuda legal
Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.
- Watch a narrated presentation describing how to read a court pleading (8 minutes)
How to File
"Filing" means to give documents to the court. Attorneys are required to eFile all documents with the court. Non-attorneys must file their documents by either hand delivering them or mailing them to the clerk's office of the court.
District and juvenile courts are allowing documents to be filed by email during the COVID-19 pandemic. See our page on filing documents by email for more information.
A document is not filed until the court receives it. If the document goes missing in the mail, it has not been filed. A party filing by mail does not have to use registered or certified mail, but it may be a good idea because the filing party is responsible for non-delivery.
The person filing a document with the court is responsible for making sure it does not include any non-public information, and must declare that they have done so. See the Non-public Records web page for information about what is and isn't public information, and to find forms for providing non-public information to the court.
Where to File
A complaint or petition starting a case must be filed the court that has the authority to handle it. This is called "jurisdiction."
- Most civil cases, including divorce and eviction, are filed in district court.
- Small claims cases are filed in justice court (except in Cache County).
- A request for a child protective order or a petition to terminate parental rights are filed in juvenile court.
The complaint or petition also must be filed in the correct county. This is called "venue." There may be more than one correct county to choose from. The county in which the defendant lives and the county in which the case arose are almost always the correct county. There may be other ways to determine proper venue in particular types of cases. See the Utah Code for laws about venue for many kinds of cases.
After the initial petition or complaint has been filed with the court, all other documents are filed in the clerk's office of the court handling the case.
When to File
Court cases and documents filed in court cases have deadlines. Documents must be filed before the deadline, and different documents have different deadlines. For example:
- A complaint or petition must be filed within the deadline created by the applicable Statute of Limitations.
- An Answer to a complaint or petition must be filed within the time specified in the Summons.
- The Motions process has specific deadlines outlined in Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 7 and URCP 101.
- The deadlines for other documents are governed by court rules, including Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and Utah Rules of Small Claims Procedure.
Many deadlines are calculated from the day the party was served. Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 6 defines how to calculate deadline dates:
- Do not count the day the party was served. For example, if a party was served on June 17:
- June 17 is day 0
- June 18 is day 1
- June 19 is day 2, etc.
- Do count the last day, unless it is a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday. For example, if a party has 21 days in which to file a document and day 21 is a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, their last day to file the document would be the end of the next business day.
- If the time period is stated in days, count intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
- If the time period is stated in hours, count intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. If the period would end on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the period continues to run until the same time on the next business day.
- Time stated as "calendar days" includes Saturday, Sunday and holidays in the calculation. Time stated as "business days" does not.
- If documents are served by mail, three days are added to the deadline. For example, if a party mails to the other party a document that requires a response within 14 days, the responding party has three additional days to respond. The court must receive the response by day 17.
There are other requirements, so read Rule of Civil Procedure 6 carefully.
If documents are filed in person, the filing party must be in the clerk's office before closing. Some courts do not accept filings shortly before closing. Contact court staff to ask about local procedures.
There is a filing fee for nearly all complaints and petitions and for some other documents. Filing fees are established by Utah Code Section 78A-2-301. The Filing / Record Fees web page lists all filing fees, as do the Cover Sheet for Civil Actions (district court cases), Justice Court Cover Sheet, and the Juvenile Court Petition Cover Sheet.
If a party cannot afford the filing fees, they can ask the judge to consider waiving them. See the Fee Waiver web page for more information and forms.
If a party is not asking that the fee be waived, they must pay the fee when the documents are filed with the court. If documents are filed by mail, the party must include a check for the filing fee.
Serving Papers on the Other Party
All documents filed with the court must be "served" on all parties in the case. "Service" means delivering the forms or documents to the other parties. See the Serving Papers web page for information about the rules for serving documents to start a case, and for serving documents once a case is underway.
Some courts require parties to file "courtesy copies." These are extra copies for the judge or commissioner in addition to the set filed with the court. Contact court staff to ask about local procedures.
- Court Locations
- Fee Waiver
- Finding an Attorney
- Forms and Instructions
- Non-public Records
- Rules of Civil Procedure
- Serving Papers
- Statute of Limitation
The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.