Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Can an informal trial help settle family legal issues in Utah?

For people in Utah who are experiencing family legal issues related to child support, custody and visitation but do not yet want to move forward with a full and formal trial to settle them, an informal trial is an option to consider. Before moving forward with this procedure, however, it is smart to understand how the informal trial process works to see if it is the right choice. With a formal trial, the Rules of Evidence will take precedence. On the other hand, they do not with an informal trial.

The informal trial requires that all parties agree to have it. Both sides will give their side of the story and will not be subject to questioning, cross examination or objections. The judge can ask questions. In general, the petitioner will have the burden of proof. He or she will tell the judge about the desires regarding the issues in the case and can give documents about their position. The other party who is not subject to the burden of proof can have a turn to explain their position to the judge.

A child who has representation and is deemed to be of sufficient maturity can also discuss the matter with the judge. If there is a representative for the Office of Recovery Services, that person can also speak. Experts who are presented will have their report put into evidence and, if requested from either party, can be questioned by anyone involved. All parties can respond to statements, documents or other pieces of evidence. The court will make a decision and it will have the same effect as if it was a conventional trial. A final order can be appealed because it did not use the Rules of Evidence.

The informal trial can only handle family legal issues related to parenting time, custody and child support. Anything else - debts, property division, alimony - must be settled through a conventional proceeding via trial or settlement negotiation. For families who are in dispute about certain matters but do not want to have a full trial, an informal trial is a useful option to consider. Discussing the matter with an attorney who is experienced in family law and informal trials can help to determine if this is the wisest course of action and help in all its aspects. This can help you save time and help you determine the best course of action for your situation.

Source:, "Informal Trial of Support, Custody and Parent-Time," accessed on Jan. 24, 2017

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