Getting Ready for Trial – Civil Cases
This page explains how to request a trial, what happens at trial and the basics of how to prepare for trial.
Trial is complicated. This page doesn't cover everything you need to know about getting ready for trial. Consider getting legal help for this part of your case.
How to request a trial
Sometimes the court schedules a trial automatically. This can happen as soon as an answer is filed.
- If your case has already been scheduled for trial, read about pretrial conferences and other details about getting ready for trial below
- If your case has not been scheduled for trial, you must schedule one
- To ask for a trial, file a Certification of Readiness for Trial. This is available in the forms section below.
The Certification tells the court that the case is ready for trial because:
- All required pleadings have been filed
- The court has decided on all motions that have been filed
- All discovery has been completed. (Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 26 to 26.4).
- Required mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has been completed, mediation has been excused, or your case is exempt from mediation. Cases exempt from ADR are listed in Utah Code of Judicial Administration Rule 4-510.06
When the court receives the Certification of Readiness for Trial it will schedule a pretrial conference. A pretrial conference is a meeting with the parties, their attorneys (if they have attorneys) and the judge or commissioner assigned to the case. The judge or commissioner will lead a discussion about:
- Whether the parties can settle some parts or all of the case – the case could be assigned to another judge for help with settlement
- How long the trial will take, how many witnesses each side plans to call
- Deadlines to prepare for trial and when the trial will be scheduled
Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 16 lists the issues that may be addressed at the pretrial conference.
- In Judicial Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4, parties are required to attend a pretrial conference.
- In Judicial Districts 5, 6, 7, and 8, a pretrial conference is optional. Either party may request one.
After the pretrial conference the parties should contact the judicial assistant for their judge to schedule the trial. See the court directory for contact information.
One of the documents the parties must prepare before a pretrial conference is called Trial Issues.
This is a list of issues that will be decided at trial, and what each party's position is on that issue. This document will be used to identify the specific issues in dispute, and to clarify what each party's position is on those issues. If something is not listed on that form, that issue cannot be raised at the trial.
Trial is your chance to present proof to the court that supports your side of the story. This proof could be the testimony of witnesses, documents, emails, or something else. This is called evidence. The judge will consider whether or not the evidence you provide at trial is "admitted into evidence."
What is admitted into evidence can be important. At the end of the trial the court will decide what happens. The court will only consider evidence that has been admitted and apply it to the applicable law in your case. The rules about what information a judge can consider are called the Utah Rules of Evidence.
Pay careful attention to the deadlines below and to the rules of evidence to help you get your evidence admitted at trial.
The court might issue a pretrial order after the pretrial conference. The deadlines for your case are based on the pretrial order. If there is no pretrial order then the deadlines below will apply. At least 28 days before trial (or 14 in an eviction case), the parties are required to exchange evidence. This is similar to the initial disclosures. Required exchanges include:
- Names, addresses and telephone numbers for each witness to be called to testify (unless the witness is to attack the credibility of another witness)
- Names of witnesses whose testimony will be presented by transcript of a deposition and a copy of the transcript with the proposed testimony highlighted
- Copies of each exhibit, including charts, summaries and demonstrative exhibits (unless the exhibit is used to attack the credibility of a witness)
At least 14 days before trial (or 7 in an eviction case), the parties are required to serve:
- Objections to admissibility of exhibits or use of deposition testimony (sometimes these objections are called motions in limine). Objections to admissibility are governed by the Utah Rules of Evidence. Generally, not objecting means the evidence can be admitted at trial.
- Selections from transcripts from deposition received from the other party they plan to use.
If both parties in a domestic case agree, they can have an informal trial on issues related to support, custody or parent-time, or some combination of these issues. The rules for this kind of trial are different. You can find more information on the Informal Trial of Support, Custody and Parent-Time web page.
There are many different parts to a trial. Below is a summary of what happens and what to prepare for. Going to trial is complicated. Consider getting legal help for this part of your case.
Aspect of trial
At the beginning of the trial each party makes an opening statement summarizing their case and the evidence they will present.
Prepare an opening statement.
The petitioner or plaintiff presents evidence that supports their case. This could be testimony from a witness, documents or something else.
The respondent or defendant is then given the same opportunity. After each witness, the other party will be given the chance to ask the witness questions. This is called cross-examination.
Prepare questions for witnesses you plan to call and questions to cross-examine any witnesses the other party plans to call.
Organize and number all evidence you plan to present to the court and be prepared to argue why the court should consider your evidence under the Utah Rules of Evidence.
After all the evidence is submitted each side makes closing arguments summarizing their case and arguing why they should win based on the law.
Make sure you know the law involved in your case and prepare arguments for why you should win based on the evidence in the case.
Other ways to prepare for trial include going to observe another trial so you can see what happens and know what to expect. You can look at the court calendar to see if a case is scheduled for trial, but most cases end up settling.
Read more about getting ready on the Going to Court web page.
The forms you need depend on your case. What is your case about?