A summons is a notice served on a person to let them know that a complaint or petition has been filed against them. The summons requires the person to answer the complaint or petition within a certain amount of time, or attend a court hearing on a certain day and time.
In most civil cases, like a divorce, the person starting the law suit completes the summons and serves it on the opposing party. In an eviction, the summons must first be signed by a judge, court clerk, or attorney, before the plaintiff can serve it on the defendant. A summons in a criminal case must be issued by a judge.
Responding to a Summons
In most civil law suits, a person has 20 days in which to answer the complaint or petition. If the person is served outside of Utah, they have 30 days in which to answer. The 20/30 day time frame does not apply in all cases. Eviction and small claims cases, for example, have different time frames.
It is very important that you file a written answer to the civil complaint or petition. If you do not answer within the time stated in the summons, a default judgment may be entered against you. This means the other party gets what they have asked for, and you won't have a chance to tell your side of the story.
A summons in a criminal case tells the defendant when to appear in court. If you fail to appear in court, then the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest.