Appealing a Divorce Decree
A divorce can be one of the most challenging and emotionally draining times in a person's life. When your divorce is completed and you’ve received your divorce decree, you may breathe a sigh of relief, hopeful that this process is behind you.
However, judges sometimes make errors when issuing a final divorce decree. This error could negatively affect you, and to have it corrected, you may need to appeal.
While you undoubtedly just want to put all of this behind you, if there’s a problem with your final divorce decree, it’s a good idea to consider your options.
Appealing your divorce judgment
To appeal your divorce decree, it has to be a final judgment of the court. In other words, your divorce must be completed, and you must have been given the final order.
Modifying a divorce decree requires that you have a valid reason to appeal. One of the most common reasons is that the trial court judge made a mistake in applying the law to your case. For example, if you were ordered to pay your former spouse permanent alimony, but your marriage only lasted two years, that may be a mistake that an appellate court would overturn.
- Ultimately, to appeal a divorce decree, you may need to show that the trial court judge abused their discretion when they entered your final judgment. This usually means they acted unreasonably or arbitrarily when making a key decision.
- You can also appeal if your former spouse lied about a material issue, like assets they hid or additional income they received and did not disclose to the court.
You cannot appeal a final divorce judgment simply because you do not like the outcome, nor can you appeal in order to challenge an established fact. You must have a legal reason to appeal, which is something a divorce attorney can help you figure out.
5 key steps of the divorce appeal process
1. Notice of Appeal
Your first task in your appeal process is to notify your former spouse that you’re appealing the final judgment. You have limited time to file your Notice of Appeal, so it’s vital that you speak with a divorce attorney soon.
2. The record on appeal
Once you’ve filed your Notice of Appeal, you must provide the appellate court with the trial court transcript, court reporter’s transcript, clerk’s record of your divorce, and any other relevant information. This is called the record on appeal. It is what the appellate court judge will use to review your case.
3. The appellate brief
Your divorce lawyer will file an appellate brief. This document explains your legal argument for why the appellate court should overturn the divorce decree.
4. Oral argument
Not every appellate case involves oral arguments. If an appellate court requests this, your lawyer will have a brief amount of time to answer questions before the appellate judge. They will use this time to try to make your case stronger. No witnesses are permitted, so neither you nor your former spouse would be allowed to testify.
5. The appellate court decision
After the above steps are complete, the appellate court will make its decision. The appeals court may agree with your argument and send the case back to the trial court for a new trial or a modification of the divorce decree.
How long does the appeal process take?
It depends. Your divorce appeal is unique, as are the facts of your case. Because this process can be slow, it may be helpful to speak with a divorce lawyer right away.
Pros and cons of appealing a divorce judgment
While every divorce case is different, weighing the pros and cons can be a good exercise. This is especially true since the appeals process can be time-consuming and expensive.
In the best-case scenario, you may be able to convince the appellate court that your argument holds merit, and they will require the trial court to change your final divorce decree.
For example, if you are ordered to pay $2,000 in alimony per month to your former spouse but have evidence that your former spouse hid income from the court, the appellate court may decide that your former spouse’s additional income means you have to pay less alimony.
Here are a few more general pros and cons of appealing your final divorce order.
Finding the right legal help for an appeal
If you are uncertain of your legal rights after a court has issued a final divorce order, contact an experienced divorce attorney. The appeals process for a divorce can be complicated. That’s why your first step in the divorce appeals process is to speak with a trusted legal advocate who can answer your questions and help you modify your divorce decree to better suit your needs.
Suggested: Modify Support if You’re Facing Income Loss
Have Questions? Need guidance?