Divorce Judgment: Appeals and Motions to Modify

When the divorce decree has been handed down by the court through a judgment or a settlement, the court’s decision can be appealed by either spouse or modify certain aspects of the divorce by filing an appeal or motion.

Divorce Judgment Appeals

If any or both of the spouses are unhappy with the divorce judgment, the next step is to appeal this to the higher courts (“appellate” or “appeals”). In such cases, appealing the divorce decree is rarely overturned by the court of appeals.

The following paragraphs are excerpts on how the appeals process works:
The counsel/attorney for each party has to submit to the appeals court a written appellate “brief” which contains the reasons why the ruling on the divorce case was unfavorable for either or both parties and the opposing parties can also defend that the judge’s decision through the brief. The “brief” is a document which contains the argument of the appeal backed up by statutes of the law and referenced law cases. An oral argument maybe granted by the appeals court after the briefs are filed by the petitioning parties.

The decisions of the appeals court most of the time are influenced by the “record”; this is an archive or record of events on what had happened during the trial in the divorce court. Therefore, whatever happened during the divorce trial greatly influences the decision of the court of appeals and rarely does it accept new evidence. After the appeals court hands down its decision, the chances of filing another appeal in the future may be limited.

Another point to remember, marital settlement agreements are not valid to be appealed if the spouses had already agreed to the terms and conditions of the settlement. So if any of the parties suddenly changed their minds or had a change of heart about how the property was divided, amount of child support granted and wanted to modify the marital settlement agreement which they had already agreed to; the chances are very slim that the appeals court will modify the settlement but this will be discussed more on the next topic.

Filing a Motion to Modify the Divorce Decree or Judgment

Aside from appealing the divorce decision in an appeals court or a higher court, the unsatisfied party may also petition the trial court to modify certain points of the divorce decree after the decision has been handed down – this may include visitation schedules, custody agreements, spousal support (alimony) and child support.

To do this, the petitioning party will file a “motion to modify” the divorce judgment or decree in family court. The petitioner can file this where the original divorce petition was filed and also where the divorce decision was received.

To give an example, if your former spouse was awarded primary physical custody of the children but he/she was arrested for illegal drug possession or any other case that may endanger the children and you discovered this later on, you can file a motion in court to modify the custody based on these facts. You can also request to modify the child support amount as long as you can prove to the court that because of significant changes in your financial situation / life has made you unable to pay the amount set by the court. Example, you have to pay $2000 a month in child support but you lost your job and you could no longer afford to pay that much, you can file a motion that will temporarily modify the child support amount/ schedules.

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