Informal Trial of Support, Custody and Parent-Time
In a divorce or parentage case, the parties have the right to a formal trial at which the Rules of Evidence apply. However, Rule 4-904 allows the district court, upon the agreement of all parties, to conduct an informal trial at which the Rules of Evidence do not apply.
At an informal trial each party will tell their version of events without questioning, cross examination, or objections by the other party or lawyer. The judge, however, may question the parties.
The party who bears the burden of proof on an issue (usually the petitioner) goes first and tells the judge his or her desires about child support, child custody and parent-time. That party may present any document or other evidence.
Then the party who does not bear the burden of proof on an issue (usually the respondent) has the opportunity to do the same thing. If a minor child is represented, the child, if old enough, or the child's lawyer may also speak to the judge, as can the lawyer for the Office of Recovery Services, if ORS is involved.
If there is an expert, the expert's report is entered into evidence as the court's exhibit. Upon request, the expert may be questioned by counsel, parties or the court.
Then each party is offered the opportunity to respond to the statements, documents or other evidence of the other party and has the opportunity to make legal arguments.
The court will enter an order which has the same force and effect as if entered after a traditional trial. If the order is a final order, it may be appealed on any grounds that do not rely upon the Utah Rules of Evidence.
An informal trial can resolve child support, child custody and parent-time, but nothing else. The parentage of a child or the divorce itself and any of the other issues within the case, such as alimony, dividing property, dividing debts, and other issues, must be resolved through normal proceedings. This means either a regular trial or a settlement agreement.
These forms anticipate the agreement and signature of all parties on a single document. They might be modified to show the agreement and signature of an individual party on separate documents, but all parties must agree before the judge can consider a motion for an informal trial.