Once the divorce is completed and a judgment entered, either or both spouses can appeal a trial court judge’s decision to a higher (“appellate” or “appeals”) court. Because of the deference given to the original judge, it is unusual, but not impossible, for an appeals court to overturn a judge’s decision in a divorce case. Settlement agreements usually cannot be overturned on appeal if both spouses agreed to the terms of the settlement unless there were problems with how the agreement was reached or other enforceability issues. The court places a great deal of faith in the judge’s final decision.
Valid Grounds for Appealing a Divorce Decree
The most common claim for appealing a divorce decree is that the court made a mistake regarding the law in the final judgment. The party filing the appeal must show that the judge made some kind of error or mistake in applying or interpreting the law regarding the circumstances of the case. Usually, a party cannot simply challenge facts that were already established during the original proceeding. If the facts have been established at the lower court, the appellate court will accept those as the facts of the case, unless something about those facts is a reflection of the mistake that the court made in applying the law. The person filing the appeal must show that the judge made an error in interpreting or applying the law to the case. The following are a few supporting grounds for a diverse appeal…
- Instances of fraud committed by the opposing party in connection with the court proceedings.
- Concealed or hidden assets of other important information by the other party didn’t divulge during the proceedings.
- Discovery of new facts that could not otherwise be discovered during the original proceedings.
Example: Maybe the court failed to take into account a loss your business has suffered or miscalculated the worth of assets. Or perhaps inadmissible testimony was allowed or pertinent evidence was excluded in your case. Maybe the ex-spouse had a lover and was using community funds to buy gifts for this person. This could make the final judgment on income or alimony payment incorrect. The court is more likely to grant an apple based on any lawful errors committed by the original court.
Ways to Challenge a Divorce Decree Include…
- Appeal – This is the “normal” avenue for challenging a divorce decree. It is also one of the most time-consuming. You usually have about 30 days to file an appeal after the final judgment has been issued, and the appeal must be based on the court’s mistake of law. In general, no new facts can be introduced on appeal.
- Motion for Rehearing – A motion for rehearing is a very technical type of procedure that must be filed almost immediately after the judgment is issued. This does not guarantee your case will be reheard by a court and a judge must grant approval of the request.
- Motion for Relief from Judgment – A motion for relief from judgment is only granted in limited circumstances, like if the other party committed fraud or concealed assets. Generally, this motion may be granted only in cases where something serious has occurred that affects the fairness of the decree.
If you are serious about appealing your divorce decree you must pay attention to the deadlines for completing the process. If you miss the deadline, you may miss your chance to appeal the decree. Talk to a local attorney as soon as possible about the various deadlines for motions and appeals to make sure you don’t lose your opportunity before you act on it.
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About Grubbs & Landry
At Grubbs & Landry, PLLC, we are dedicated to personal and friendly service. We manage our practice in an ethical, cost-effective manner to best help our clients resolve their legal issues with the least expense possible. We pride ourselves in advocating for our client in divorce, child custody, and child support matters as well as other family law matters. We are active in prosecuting personal injury cases-recovering for the injuries our clients sustain due to the negligence of others. Additionally, we help our clients prepare for the future through the preparation of Wills, Power of Attorney and Living Will.
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