Utah divorce cases begin with the filing of a petition or complaint for divorce. This is like the opening shot across the bow. The petition is served on the other party along with a summons, and the other party then has 21 days (or 30 days if they live out of state) in which to file and serve an answer to the petition. After being served with the answer, the petitioner may then file and serve a reply, although this pleading is not strictly required.
After these initial pleading have been filed and served, the parties must then exchange what are known as initial disclosures.
The purpose of the disclosures is to ensure that both parties have full access to relevant financial and other information needed to begin preparing for trial.
Rule 26 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the information that is required to be disclosed in any civil lawsuit. This includes the contact information of any individual likely to have discoverable information, and each fact witness the party is likely to call in support of their case in chief along with a brief summary of the witness’ testimony. In addition, the parties must exchange copies of documents and other tangible things they may offer in their case in chief. They must exchange a computation of any damages claimed and a copy of discoverable material upon which the computation is based. This part of the rule does not apply to family law cases, in which the parties are not suing each other for damages, but rather for an equitable division of marital property. The parties must exchange copies of indemnity or insurance agreements that could satisfy any monetary award. Again, this part of the rule does not apply to family law cases. Finally, the parties must exchange copies of any documents referred to in their pleadings.
In divorce and family law cases, URCP Rule 26.1 supplements these initial disclosures. This rule requires the parties to exchange complete financial information, including a financial declaration setting forth the parties’ income and expenses, as well as their assets and liabilities. This is a personal income statement and balance sheet. The parties must attach copies of their last two years’ tax returns with W2s and 1099s, bank and other financial account statements for the three months’ immediately prior to the filing of the case, pay stubs for the twelve months prior to the filing of the case, loan application and any financial statements prepared by the parties in the twelve months prior to the filing of the case, and documents verifying the value of the parties’ real estate including, but not limited to the most recent appraisal, tax valuation or refinance documents.
The financial declaration is typically the single most important document in any family law or divorce case. Thus, it is important for the parties to take the time to fill it out accurately and completely, with supporting documentation. Without the full disclosure the financial declaration provides, it would be difficult if not impossible for the case to move forward towards resolution.
The Petitioner in a divorce case must provide the respondent his or her financial disclosures within 14 days of being served with the answer. The respondent must then provide the petition with his or her financial disclosures within 28 days of filing an answer or entering an appearance in the case, whichever is later. Each party must then file with the Court a certificate verifying that they have provided their financial disclosures to the other party.
There are potential sanctions associated with failure to fully comply with the financial disclosure requirements. These potential sanctions include the award of any non-disclosed assets to the other party, attorney fees, or other sanctions.
Notice of the requirements of Rule 26.1 must be served along with the initial petition upon the Respondent or any other party who has been joined to the case.
Because the rules of procedure for family law are not self-evident, it is often helpful to seek the advice or services of an experienced professional in navigating these sometimes complex rules in order to achieve a fair and equitable outcome in the case.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.