Personal Jurisdiction Over Nonresidents in Utah Family Law Cases

Personal jurisdiction is at the foundation of every case brought in a Utah court.  In family law cases, whether the court has personal jurisdiction over the parties is the first question that the court and the parties should ask.  Utah family law cases often involve parties who live in states other than Utah.  This becomes common because when couples split they want to get as far away from each other as they can, they want to live near family, or they just want a fresh start, so they move away.  Sometimes, however, one party lives in Utah, but the other party has never lived in Utah or even visited Utah.  In such cases, Utah may have a difficult time exercising personal jurisdiction over that party.

In determining whether personal jurisdiction exists over a nonresident respondent, Utah applies a two part test. See State ex rel. W.A., 2002 UT 127, ¶ 14, 63 P.3d 607. The court must first determine whether Utah law confers personal jurisdiction over the nonresident respondent. Assuming Utah law confers personal jurisdiction over the nonresident respondent, the court must then decide whether an exercise of personal jurisdiction complies with the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. Furthermore, once a respondent raises lack of personal jurisdiction as a defense, the burden is on the petitioner to prove personal jurisdiction with adequate evidence. See Fenn v. Mleads Enterprises, Inc., 2006 UT 8, ¶ 8, 137 P.3d 706.

In deciding whether there is personal jurisdiction over a party, the court looks to any and all facts that go to the issue of jurisdiction: whether he has ever lived in Utah; whether he travels to Utah and how often; whether he does business in Utah; whether he makes phone calls and sends emails and other correspondence to individuals or businesses residing in Utah; and any other evidence regarding the party’s minimum contacts with the state of Utah.

If you are an out of state resident who believes Utah does not have jurisdiction, give our attorneys call at 801.618.1331 and we can probably tell you whether you have a personal jurisdiction issue.

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