What Is a Divorce Complaint?

Starting the Utah Divorce Process

You may have received a court document from your spouse recently. If that document was a Divorce Complaint (also called Complaint for Divorce or Petition for Divorce), then you have started the divorce process.

In Utah, a Divorce Complaint is the document that lets Court and a spouse know that someone wants a divorce.

Wish Lists

Divorce Complaints are odd things, to be honest. They are more like wish lists than anything else. They lay out what one person wants in the divorce if that person could get everything magically handed to them on a silver platter. They are, in a word, unrealistic.

This is important to keep in mind for a couple reasons. First, unless you do nothing and default (very bad idea), your spouse will not get all the stuff he or she asks for in the Divorce Complaint. Second, if you filed first, you won’t get all the stuff you ask for.

So, a Divorce Complaint lays out the extremes in a divorce. And because most divorces are mediated, good attorneys use Divorce Complaints (and the Counter-Claims) as markers for negotiation.


Sometimes there are things in a Divorce Complaint that are non-negotiable. This often happens with kids. For example, you may feel very strongly that your kids need to be with you most of the time, so you ask for primary physical custody (this is a fancy lawyer way of saying your kids are with you more than 70% of overnights in a year).

If you have some non-negotiables, make sure you tell your attorney about them up front. That way your attorney knows what is most important to you and can talk you through what it means for that issue to be non-negotiable (costs, processes, etc.).

And, please, try not to have too many non-negotiables in your divorce. The more you have the more you will spend on your divorce. Principles matter, and they also cost.

Time to Respond to a Divorce Complaint

If you receive a Divorce Complaint, a clock starts ticking and you have a certain amount of time to respond.

If you are served in Utah, you have twenty-one days to respond.

If you are served outside Utah, you have thirty days to respond.

You respond by filing an Answer, or, better yet, an Answer and Counter-Claim. (For more information on Answers, click here.) If you don’t respond in time, you risk defaulting. If you default, your spouse will get everything he or she requests in the Divorce Complaint.

Don’t let that happen to you. You will regret it for years. File an Answer, or hire an attorney to file one for you. It’s one of the best investments you will ever make.

Published On: March 10th, 2016Categories: CourtComments Off on What Is a Divorce Complaint?
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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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