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Motion for Alternative Service

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Serving Papers

Utah law requires that when a lawsuit is filed with the court, the plaintiff/petition must serve the defendant/respondent in a special way to notify them about the case, provide them with copies of all the papers filed, and give time to respond to the complaint or petition.

Utah Rules of Civil Procedure 4(d)(1) - (d)(3) describe the ways a party can be served when a case is started.


If the defendant/respondent can't be found for service

Sometimes the plaintiff/petitioner can’t find the defendant/respondent to have them served, or believes that the defendant/respondent is trying to avoid service.

The plaintiff/petitioner must use “reasonable diligence” to find the person, which means they have to make a good effort. See our Finding People for Service of Process page for information about ways to try to find someone.

If the plaintiff/petitioner still can’t find the person, they can ask the court for permission to use “alternative service.”


Motion for alternative service

A plaintiff/petitioner can use alternative service only if they first get the permission of the judge. The way to ask for permission is to file a Motion for Alternative Service.

In the Motion, the plaintiff/petitioner must clearly describe all the things they have done to try to find and serve the defendant/respondent and why those efforts didn’t work.

It is not enough to say “I don’t know where he is” or “I haven’t seen her in 15 years.” The plaintiff/petitioner must try to find the person.

Here is a sample explanation of a plaintiff/petitioner’s efforts:

  • December 15 – I called defendant’s mother, Jane Smith because I know he always stays in touch with his mother. She said she won’t tell me where he is.
  • December 16 – I called defendant’s old boss, Joe Osborne, at Consolidated Industries. He said he hasn’t seen or heard from defendant in more than a year
  • December 17 – I called defendant’s former roommate, John Brown. He said defendant left without any forwarding address.
  • December 17 – I Googled defendant’s name and found he has a Facebook page, which says he is living in Las Vegas.

Alternative service options

In the Motion for Alternative Service, the plaintiff/petitioner must explain which method(s) they think are most likely to give the defendant/respondent actual notice of the court case.

One option is to publish the summons in the legal notices section of the newspaper once a week for a number of weeks. This option can be expensive because newspapers charge to publish the notice. Also, this option may not be effective because very few people check the legal notices to see if someone might have filed a lawsuit against them.

Utah law allows the judge to order other methods to notify someone, including:

  • Utah Press Association's Legal Notices (utahlegals.com) webpage
  • text messaging,
  • email,
  • social media (Facebook, Twitter), or
  • a combination of these methods

If the judge gives the plaintiff/petitioner permission to use alternative service, they should carefully read the judge’s order to see what methods the judge is requiring.


Proof of service

The plaintiff/petitioner may serve only by the method(s) the judge ordered. Once service is complete, the plaintiff/petitioner must file proof of service with the court.

If the judge ordered service by

Service is

To prove service

Mailing the document to the last known address or someone else’s address

Mailing the document with return receipt requested to the address specified in the order

  • Return receipt
  • Completed Proof of Service by Alternative Means form

Publication in the Legal Notices section of the specific newspaper ordered by the judge

Providing the newspaper with a copy of the Summons for Publication. The newspaper publishes the notice for the ordered amount of time.

  • Proof of service provided by the newspaper
  • Completed Proof of Service by Alternative Means form

Publication on the Utah Press Association’s Legal Notices web page

Publishing the complaint and summons on the Utah Press Association's Legal Notices web page.

  • A printed copy of the posted notice
  • Completed Proof of Service by Alternative Means form

Text message

Sending the defendant/respondent a text message notifying them that a case has been filed, the court where it has been filed, and the court case number (and whatever else the judge ordered).

  • A printed copy of the text message
  • Completed Proof of Service by Alternative Means form

Email message

Sending the summons and complaint or petition to the defendant/respondent’s email address.

  • A printed copy of the email message and a
  • Completed Proof of Service by Alternative Means form

Social media

Posting a message on the person’s Facebook page, or send a message via Twitter notifying them that the case has been filed, the court where it has been filed, and the court case number (and whatever else the judge ordered).

  • A printed copy of the Facebook post or Twitter message and a
  • Completed Proof of Service by Alternative Means form

If the judge has ordered a combination of these types of service, the plaintiff/petitioner must provide proof that they have done all of them, but would file just one Proof of Service by Alternative Means form.


Forms

  • Motion for Alternative Service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Order on Motion for Alternative Service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Proof of Service by Alternative Means - PDF Document PDF| Word Document Word
    (Filed once service is completed)

Optional Forms


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: 4/26/2016
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