How to File
After you complete a court form or a document of your own, you must file the original with the court and serve a copy on the other parties. To file papers with the court, give them to the clerk at the courthouse, or you can file papers by mail but not by fax. If you file by mail, it's a good idea to use registered or certified mail, because you are responsible for non-delivery. For example, a document is not filed until the court receives it. If the document goes missing in the mail, it is not filed even though you sent it.
Filing Non-Public Records and Information
The person filing a document must exclude any non-public information from it and must declare that s/he has done so. If you are preparing the document from scratch or completing a court form, omit any non-public information. If you are filing a document prepared apart from the court process that happens to contain non-public information, redact the non-public information. Non-public information contained in a public document will be accessible, possibly on the internet. The judicial services representative will not redact the non-public information for you. You may still have to provide the court with the non-public information, and you should do so on a separate document. The courts have 4 forms for providing some of the more common pieces of non-public information to the court in a confidential manner. For more information, see our webpage on Non-public Records.
Where to File
If you are filing a complaint or petition to start a case, you must file it in the correct court. This is called "jurisdiction." Most complaints and petitions described on this website should be filed in the district court. You can file a small claims case in the justice court. And you can file a petition for a child protective order or voluntary consent to terminate parental rights in the juvenile court. Otherwise, you will probably file your complaint in the district court.
The complaint or petition also has to be filed in the correct county, and there may be more than one correct county to choose from. This is called "venue." The county in which the defendant lives and the county in which the case arose are almost always the correct county. There may be others for particular types of cases. If there is more than one correct county, you can file the case in the one that is most convenient. You can find the venue requirements in the Utah Code.
File forms and documents after the initial complaint in the clerk's office of the court in which the case is pending.
When to File
You have to file before the deadline. Different papers have different deadlines. If you are filing a complaint or petition, you must file it within the deadline created by the Statute of Limitation. If you are filing an Answer to a complaint or petition, you should have been served with a Summons that tells you the deadline. The deadline for other documents is governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Many deadlines are calculated from the day you were served. Once you know the number of days after service that you have to file something, Rule of Civil Procedure 6 tells you how to calculate the deadline date:
- Do not count the day you were served. For example, if you have to file an Answer within 20 days from the day you were served and you were served on June 17, then 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 you have 20 days in which to file a document and day 20 is a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, file the document on the next business day.
- If the deadline is less than 11 days, do not count intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
- If the deadline is 11 days or more, count intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
- If you file by mail, add three days to the deadline, and mail the papers so they arrive by the deadline. For example, if you have 20 days in which to file a document and you file by mail, the court must receive it by day 23.
There are other requirements, so read the rule carefully.
If you file in person, you must be in the clerk's office before 5:00 p.m. Some courts do not accept filings after 4:45 p.m. Call the clerk's office to be sure.
There is a filing fee for nearly all complaints and petitions and for many other documents as well. Filing fees are established by Utah Code Section 78A-2-301. For more information, see our webpage on Fees.
If you cannot afford the filing fees, you can ask that they be waived. You will be asked to complete forms with detailed financial information. The fee initially will be waived and your filing accepted, but a judge will review your financial information and decide whether you have to pay later. For more information, see our webpage on Fee Waiver.
If you do not ask that the fee be waived, you must pay the fee when you file the papers. If you file by mail, include a check for the filing fee.
Entities other than the court also charge fees, which may not be waived by the Application for Waiver of Court Fees. For example, the county sheriff or constable must serve papers for free, but a private process server may still charge a fee. The county recorder will charge a fee to record a judgment. If you subpoena a witness to appear at the trial, the witness fee is $18.50 for the first day and $49.00 for subsequent days plus $1 for every 4 miles over 50 miles one way.
"Service" simply means delivering the forms or documents to the other parties, but you must deliver them in special ways. If you are filing a complaint or petition to start a case, you must serve the defendant/respondent under Rule of Civil Procedure 4. If you are filing papers in a case that already exists, you must serve a copy on the lawyer for each of the other parties under Rule of Civil Procedure 5. If a party does not have a lawyer, serve the party.
You are also responsible for filing proof that the forms or documents have been served. For more information, see our webpage on Serving Papers.
Ask the clerk whether a courtesy copy is required. A courtesy copy is a personal copy for the judge or commissioner. Not all judges and commissioners require a courtesy copy. Ask the clerk if there are any local filing requirements.