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Serving Papers (Service of Process) – Utah Courts

What is Serving Papers?

In the state of Utah, when a lawsuit is filed with the court, it is mandatory for the plaintiff or petitioner to serve the defendant or respondent in a specific manner. This serves to notify them about the case, provide them with copies of all the filed papers, and allow them time to respond to the complaint or petition.

Utah Rules of Civil Procedure 4(d)(1) – (d)(3) outline the various ways a party can be served when a case is initiated.

What if the Defendant Can’t be Found?

There are instances where the plaintiff or petitioner is unable to locate the defendant or believes that the defendant is actively avoiding service. In such situations, the plaintiff or petitioner must demonstrate “reasonable diligence” in their efforts to find the person. They must make a genuine effort to locate the individual. For helpful tips on locating someone, refer to our “Finding People for Service of Process” page.

If the plaintiff or petitioner is still unable to find the person, they can request permission from the court to use “alternative service.”

Seeking Permission for Alternative Service

Before resorting to alternative service, the plaintiff or petitioner must obtain permission from the judge. They can do this by filing a Motion for Alternative Service. The Motion should clearly outline all the steps taken to locate and serve the defendant or respondent, along with an explanation of why those efforts were unsuccessful.

It is not sufficient to simply state that the person’s whereabouts are unknown or that they haven’t been seen in a long time. The plaintiff or petitioner must genuinely attempt to locate the individual. Here is an example of the efforts made by a plaintiff or petitioner:

  • December 15 – I contacted the defendant’s mother, Jane Smith, as I knew he frequently stays in touch with her. However, she refused to disclose his current location.
  • December 16 – I reached out to the defendant’s former boss, Joe Osborne, at Consolidated Industries. He stated that he hasn’t had any contact with the defendant for over a year.
  • December 17 – I contacted the defendant’s former roommate, John Brown, who informed me that the defendant left without leaving a forwarding address.
  • December 17 – Upon searching the defendant’s name on Google, I discovered a Facebook page indicating that he is currently residing in Las Vegas.

Alternative Service Options

In the Motion for Alternative Service, the plaintiff or petitioner should suggest the method(s) they believe are most likely to effectively notify the defendant or respondent about the court case.

One option is to publish the summons in the legal notices section of a newspaper for several weeks. However, this option can be costly as newspapers usually charge for publishing such notices. Additionally, it may not be very effective since only a few people check the legal notices for potential lawsuits against them.

Utah law allows the judge to order alternative methods of notification, such as:

  • Utah Press Association’s Legal Notices ( webpage
  • Text messaging
  • Email
  • Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter
  • A combination of these methods

If the judge grants permission for alternative service, the plaintiff or petitioner must carefully review the judge’s order to determine which methods are required.

Proving Service

The plaintiff or petitioner can only use the methods specified by the judge for serving the papers. Once the service is complete, the plaintiff or petitioner must file proof of service with the court.

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