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.
Serving Papers (Service of Process)
It is very important that you serve papers correctly!
If you do not follow the rules, the court may dismiss your case.
What is Service?
Serving papers means delivering a copy of the papers you file with the court to the other side. You must deliver to the other side copies of all the papers you file with the court. How you must deliver these papers depends on where you are in your case.
If you are starting a new case, you must serve the papers following the requirements of Utah Rule of Civil Procedure (URCP) 4. There are two ways a case can begin:
- The plaintiff or petitioner files a Complaint or Petition and Summons with the court. The Complaint and Summons must be served on the opposing party within 120 days of filing.
- The plaintiff or petitioner serves the Complaint or Petition and Summons on the opposing party before filing the case with the court. The Complaint and Summons must be filed with the court within 10 days of service.
If your case has already been started, you must serve the papers following the requirements of Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 5. See the Service of Other Papers section for more information about Rule 5 service.
Proof of Service Required
A Proof of Service document must be attached to all papers filed with the court. Whether you handled service yourself, or had a Sheriff, constable or a private process server serve the documents, you are responsible for ensuring that a proof of service is filed with the court. The court will not read your documents or act on your case until you have shown that you served all parties by filing the proof of service.
The proof of service tells the court when and how the parties were served, and the names and addresses of those served. The person who served the document must complete the Proof of Service document. If the Sheriff, constable or private process server serves a document, ask them whether they will file the Proof of Service with the court, or if they will return it to you to file.
Mail a copy of the completed Proof of Service form, along with a Certificate of Service form, to the other party (or lawyer if the other party has a lawyer). Then file the original Proof of Service and Certificate of Service with the court. Both of these forms are available in the Forms section of this page.
Some case types have special service requirements. If you use the court's Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP), it will provide information about special service requirements specific to the case type.
Proceedings where contempt of court or a warrant is a possible sanction generally require that the party is personally served. Examples include an Order to Show Cause proceeding, Supplemental Orders and civil bench warrants.
Look under Service of Process in the Utah Code for references to relevant Utah Code sections governing service, including service on businesses and people in the military, and service in adoption, guardianship, and forcible entry and detainer (landlord tenant) cases.
Who Can Serve What?
These people can serve all process issued by Utah courts:
- Peace officers
- Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs
- Constables and constables' deputies
- State-employed investigators who are authorized to serve process
- Licensed private investigators
Licensed Private Investigators may serve all forms of process in a civil proceeding, including bench warrants, but they cannot arrest anyone pursuant to bench warrant.
Note: Professional process servers charge to serve process. Fees vary depending on the type of document(s) to be served.
With some restrictions, any person over 18 who is not a party to the action or a party's attorney can serve:
- Complaints and Petitions
- Small Claims Affidavits and Summonses
Note: The person serving the papers must complete a Proof of Service form that describes how and when service was performed. These forms are available in the Forms section of this page.
You can find private process servers in the Yellow Pages under Process Servers.
Serving the Complaint
Service may be personal or by mail. Alternative service (sometimes called publication) is allowed in some situations.
In personal service, documents are given personally to the defendant/respondent. Documents can be served by a sheriff, a constable, a U.S. Marshal, or by any person 18 or older who is:
- not a party in the case or an attorney for a party in the case,
- not been convicted of a felony violation of a sex offense listed in Utah Code section 77-41-102(16), or
- not a respondent in a protective order proceeding (See Utah Code section 78B-7-101 et seq.).
You cannot serve the documents in your own case.
If the respondent cannot be found to be served personally, the documents can be given to an adult who resides in the respondent's home. If the respondent is a company, the documents can be given to the company's manager or the person in charge of the office.
Service by Mail
Documents can be mailed to the other party using the U.S. Postal Service or a commercial courier service such as FedEx or UPS. The documents must be sent by a method that requires the respondent to sign for the delivery. The document is not properly served if someone other than the respondent signs for the delivery. A card or other document with the respondent's signature and the Proof of Service form must be filed with the court once service is complete.
Acceptance of Service
The petitioner can ask the respondent to accept service. If the respondent agrees, the petitioner does not have to follow the strict service requirements of URCP 4. An Acceptance of Service only acknowledges receipt of the Complaint or Petition and Summons. It does not otherwise waive any rights, defenses or objections of the respondent.
If the respondent is willing to accept service, the petitioner (or anyone) may mail, email or hand deliver a copy of the Complaint or Petition, Summons and Acceptance of Service to the respondent. The respondent must sign the Acceptance of Service, file it with the court (or give it to the petitioner to file), and email, mail or hand deliver a copy of the Acceptance of Service to the petitioner. The respondent has 21 days (if served in the state of Utah; 30 days if served outside the state of Utah) from the date they sign the Acceptance of Service to answer the Complaint or Petition.
Stipulation Instead of Service
In divorce cases, the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) will produce a document called Stipulation. This is used if the parties agree about all of the terms of the divorce even before the respondent has been served. If the parties agree from the start of the case then service of the petition and summons on the respondent is not required. The respondent and petitioner can sign the stipulation if they agree completely with everything listed in the Stipulation.
A respondent who does not agree with all the statements in the stipulation should not sign the stipulation. If the respondent signs the stipulation they are entering an appearance in the case.
A stipulation can also be used at any time in the divorce if the parties agree about how to finish the case.
Acceptance of Service, Appearance, Consent and Waiver
In custody cases, the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) will produce a document called Acceptance of Service, Appearance, Consent and Waiver. The respondent can sign this document if they agree completely with everything requested in the Petition. If the respondent signs the document, they are saying:
- they got a copy of the Petition and Summons, and
- they read and understood the Petition, and
- they agree completely with everything requested in the Petition.
In addition, the respondent is saying that they know they are giving up these rights by signing the Acceptance of Service, Appearance, Consent and Waiver:
- The right to have the Petition and Summons served according to the requirements of URCP 4.
- The right to answer the Petition within the time set out in the Summons (21 days if served in the state of Utah; 30 days if served outside the state of Utah).
A respondent who does not agree with all the statements listed above should not sign the Acceptance of Service, Appearance, Consent and Waiver.
Sometimes the plaintiff/petitioner can't find the defendant/respondent to have them served, or believes that the defendant/respondent is trying to avoid service.
The plaintiff/petitioner must use "reasonable diligence" to find the person, which means they have to make a good effort. See our Finding People for Service of Process page for information about ways to try to find someone.
If the plaintiff/petitioner still can't find the person, they can ask the court for permission to use "alternative service."
For information about the process and forms, see our Alternative Service page.
Service in States Other Than Utah
Someone outside Utah can be served in the same way as someone in Utah, following URCP 4.
Service in Foreign Countries
Serving someone outside the United States can be difficult. You may wish to contact an attorney for help.
Civil Rule 4 says that someone outside the United States can be served by "any internationally agreed means reasonably calculated to give notice, such as ... the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents."
- If there is no internationally agreed means, URCP 4(d)(3)(B) describes other acceptable methods.
- All documents must be translated into the official language of the foreign country, and must be served along with the English version.
The Hague Convention generally provides for service of process through a request submitted on form USM-94, U.S. Marshals Service. The Convention also permits service of process by international registered mail.
Countries may object to service by international registered mail, and many have. Service by registered mail should not be used in these countries.
- Czech Republic
- Russian Federation
- San Marino
- Slovak Republic
- Sri Lanka
If you are involved in a divorce or custody case with someone who is or may be in Mexico, please see our Service of Divorce/Custody Papers in Mexico page. For all other types of cases, please see the Department of State's Service of Process page.
Serving Someone on Active Military Duty
Serving someone on active military duty, especially if they are not in the United States, can be difficult. Consider contacting an attorney for help.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows those on active military duty to postpone or suspend certain civil judicial proceedings. 50 U.S.C. App. §501 - §596. The SCRA also provides protection in the areas of financial management such as rental agreements, security deposits, eviction, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgages, and income tax payments.
Some case types require verification that you have checked to see whether the opposing party in your case is on active military duty. Use the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/scra/ to determine if someone is on active military duty.
Service of Other Papers
Service is usually more relaxed after the summons and complaint or petition have been served. Everything filed with the court and every order or judgment must be served under URCP 5.
Who must be served
The papers must be served on:
- All parties in the case.
- If a party is represented by an attorney, on their attorney instead of the party.
- If a party is represented by a licensed paralegal practitioner (LPP), on their LPP instead of the party (URCP 86).
How the papers can be served
These papers can be served by:
- Mailing them to the last known address provided.
- Handing them to the person.
- Emailing them to the most recent email address provided.
- Leaving them at the person's office with a person in charge or in a receptacle meant for deliveries.
- Leaving them at the person's home with a person of suitable age and discretion who lives there.
Service by mail or email is complete when sent.
There are some situations in which you may want to follow the requirements for serving someone using one of the methods by URCP 4, even though you are allowed to follow URCP 5. For example, you may serve the judgment debtor with a notice to attend a hearing to identify property by mail or email or any other service methods authorized by URCP 5. However, if the debtor does not attend the hearing and you want to ask the court to issue an arrest warrant to force attendance, you must have served the notice following the personal service requirements of URCP 4.
Note: The person serving the papers must complete a Certificate of Service or Proof of Service form that describes how and when service was performed. These forms are available in the Forms section of this page.
Finding People for Service of Process
- Proof of Service -
Used to prove a party was properly served following the requirements of Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 4.
- Certificate of Service -
Used to prove a party was properly served following the requirements of Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 5.
- Acceptance of Service -
See description above for information about when this form is used.
- Service Assistance Form -
Used to provide law enforcement with information that may help them serve someone.
- Filing Procedures
- Finding an Attorney
- Finding People for Service of Process
- Free Legal Clinics
- Rules of Civil Procedure
- Service of Divorce/Custody Papers in Mexico
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.