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Finding Legal Help

You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help. 

Como encontrar ayuda legal

Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.

Getting Ready for Trial – Civil Cases

This page explains how to request a trial, what happens at trial and includes limited information on how to prepare for trial. Trial is complicated. This page does not cover everything you need to know about getting ready for trial, such as trials by jury. Consider getting legal help for this part of your case.

Certification of Readiness for Trial

To ask for a trial, one of the parties must file a document called Certification of Readiness for Trial. Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 16.

If you are not sure if you are ready for trial, review the Summary of Civil Procedures web page.

The Certification tells the court that the case is ready for trial because:

In domestic case (such as divorce, child custody, child support, parentage, temporary separation, separate maintenance, domestic order modification), the parties must answer questions about divorce education classes, and about whether the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) has been notified of the case.

Pretrial conference

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.

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.

Trial issues

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.

Evidence at 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.

Pretrial disclosures

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.

Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(5).

Informal Trial of Support, Custody and Parent-Time

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.

Preparing for trial

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

Preparation involved

Aspect of trial

At the beginning of the trial each party makes an opening statement summarizing their case and the evidence they will present.

Preparation involved

Prepare an opening statement.

Aspect of trial

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.

Preparation involved

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.

Aspect of trial

After all the evidence is submitted each side makes closing arguments summarizing their case and arguing why they should win based on the law.

Preparation involved

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.

Forms

  • Certification of Readiness for Trial - PDF | Word
  • Trial issues - PDF | Word
  • Trial Issues (domestic cases) - PDF | Word

Related Information

The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.


Page Last Modified: 9/20/2019
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