Court commissioners have limited judicial authority compared with a court judge. A court commissioner initially hears the majority of family law matters. At the conclusion of a hearing, the court commissioner will make a recommendation on orders regarding the relief requested. However, if an individual is unsatisfied with the commissioner’s recommendation, Utah law provides a method to object to the commissioner’s recommendation. The District Court Judge then considers the matter.
Under Utah Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 108, a party may file a written objection to the recommendation. It must be filed within fourteen (14) days after the recommendation is:
- made in open court, OR
- when the minute entry in the recommendation is served.
The objection consists of a written pleading filed with the court. The Utah Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 7 governs the length and content of the pleading.
The objecting party must identify:
- the particular findings of fact
- conclusions of law
- order, OR
- part of the recommendation to which the objection refers and state the relief sought.
Presenting Evidence to a Judge
Ordinarily, only evidence presented to the commissioner will have presented to the judge. However, the judge may consider new evidence if there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the commissioner made his or her recommendation. The non-objecting party has a chance to respond to the objection as provided under Utah Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 7. It is possible that both parties can object to the commissioner’s recommendation since the commissioner can make several decisions or recommendations.
The same findings of fact or conclusions of law made by the commissioner do not bind the judge. The judge will make independent findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence, whether by
- testimony, OR
This is different than appealing a case or decision to the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court. The district court judge is not required to give deference to the commissioner’s findings like the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court must do at times. Either party may request a hearing before the judge; however a judge does not necessarily have to agree to have a hearing and can decide the matter based on the motions and evidence presented. If neither party requests a hearing, then the judge can either make a decision based on the record or decide to hold a hearing on its own.
Things to be Aware of Concerning Filing an Objection
An objection is an important tool an individual can use to get a fair and equitable result. If an individual believes the recommendation made by the commissioner to be unfair or inequitable, that individual has the right to object to the recommendation and have the matter heard again before the judge. However, an individual should not approach the initial hearing with the commissioner with minimal effort.
The judge usually only considers evidence presented to the commissioner. Evidence not presented to the commissioner will not be presented to the judge. An objection can also be a costly procedure. While an individual may prevail in their objection, they will incur extra legal fees. In the alternative, an individual can lose his or her objection and still end up with the extra legal fees. If you are considering objecting to a commissioner’s recommendation, please consult with your Salt Lake City family lawyers to discuss the pros and cons of doing so.