If you are served with a Petition for Divorce and Summons in Utah, you are considered the Respondent spouse. The Petition is the document your spouse has filed with the Court to initiate divorce proceedings. The Petition lets the Court know the factual information regarding your marriage, as well as your spouse’s requests for “relief,” such as the division of marital property and debts, spousal support, and for Court Orders regarding any children of the marriage. You might not agree with everything in the Petition that has been filed by your spouse, and that’s okay! You have an opportunity to respond, either by way of a stipulation or an answer, for this very reason.
A stipulation is when you agree in writing to the terms in the Petition for divorce and divorce decree. You can choose to file this from the start, or at any point during the process. If you already have an agreement with your spouse, opting for the stipulation will allow you to skip the work and hassle of needing to be served with the Petition and Summons, filing an Answer and paying the filing fee, and submitting financial disclosures.
QUICK TIP: You can easily create your stipulation or Answer by signing up for one of our DIY memberships.
In a contested divorce, where you don’t agree with what your spouse has written in the petition for divorce, you can file an Answer, which allows you to agree or disagree with each aspect of the petition and preserve your rights. If you want to make your own claims, which weren’t addressed in the divorce petition filed, you must file both an answer and a counterclaim.
When served in Utah, you are required to file a response within 21 days of being personally served. If your spouse has filed for divorce in Utah and you live in another state, you have 30 days to file your response. When you file a response with a counterclaim, you will have to pay the applicable court filing fee of $130. If you are not filing a response with a counterclaim, you do not have to pay a cost.
Should I File an Answer?
Ideally, you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement, submit a Stipulation, and thus, are able to skip some of the hassles of the divorce process. That said, we realize this isn’t always the case. If there are disagreements on the terms, or if you want to file a counterclaim, you should submit an Answer to the Petition informing the Court of your position.
As soon as a divorce petition is filed, the Court automatically issues a Domestic Relations Injunction. This essentially stops either party from making any major changes in their lives as a response to the divorce. Elements of the injunction include requiring both spouses not to harass each other, not allowing for changes to be made to insurance policies or property ownership, and non-essential travel with the parties’ minor children, amongst other things. The Petitioner is bound by the injunction once they file, and the respondent is bound by it only once the petitioner provides them with a copy. So even if you do not file a n Answer, you still are bound by the Domestic Relations Injunction.
What Happens if I Don’t File an Answer?
If you choose not to file an Answer, the Court can proceed with the terms set by the Petition. You will be considered to be in “default,” which is in no way bad, it just means the Court can make default orders based on the Petition without further input by you.
This would be considered bad for you only if you disagree with the original terms set out in the Petition.
What if We Have a Postnuptial Agreement?
Even if you have postnuptial (stipulation) agreement, if the Petitioner does not provide the Court with a copy (for instance, if it is unfavorable for the Petitioner), then the Court would just enter the default orders that have been requested by the Petitioner because they have no knowledge of the agreement. If the Petitioner does provide the Court with the pre/post nuptial agreement, then they could use that as a guide to splitting things up, so long as that agreement is found to be valid.
The Good News?
The good news is that an Answer in Utah is not a difficult process (your spouse has already done most of the leg work by filing the Petition) and filing an Answer does not lock you into agreeing to any final terms of your divorce. You can easily complete and submit your response by signing up for our DIY membership or opt to have our experience team handle it for you.
Have questions about the process? Feel free to schedule a FREE 15-minute call with us.