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When to File a Post-Divorce Appeal


Published on September 8th, 2021

When a marriage is dissolved, a divorce decree details the court’s ruling on a host of issues that were addressed in the proceedings. In such an emotionally difficult time, it’s understandable that both parties aren’t always happy with the results. In some cases, the appeals process will allow one or both spouses to challenge elements of their divorce decree, but only under certain conditions. It’s not enough simply to be disappointed with the final decision made by the trial court. The party filing the appeal must strongly believe a mistake was made in their case and have evidence to back up that claim.

Common Issues Appealed in Illinois

Generally, an appeal must be filed within thirty days of the final judgment being issued in a divorce. Common areas of disagreement in family law include:

  • Asset classification;
  • Property division;
  • Child support; and
  • Spousal maintenance.

Even if you have a strong case, be aware that appealing is not an easy process. Some people choose to represent themselves in appeals cases, but your chances are better if you work with a divorce attorney who has experience filing your type of appeal and can help you understand what the process will require of you.

Valid Reasons to File an Appeal

Any party involved in a divorce case could make a mistake, including the judge. Sometimes a procedural mistake – an error that occurs during the legal process – is made unintentionally. Here are legally valid reasons for filing an appeal:

  • The inaccurate interpretation of divorce law;
  • An arbitrary or unreasonable ruling;
  • A procedural mistake; or
  • An issue involving the admissibility of evidence.

If the error impacts the outcome of a divorce case, then an appeal might be necessary to rectify the situation. For example, in past cases, appeals have shown that the court applied the wrong legal standard for calculating an ex-spouse’s income. If that happens, you may have a case for disputing the spousal maintenance in your agreement.

Incomplete or False Information

Are you unhappy with the amount of child support you are ordered to pay? Unless the judge failed to follow the law in making the order or another mistake was made, an appeal will likely be unsuccessful. On the other hand, maybe your divorce was finalized before all of your joint financial issues could be examined. In that case, there is a possibility that your appeal will be successful. Both spouses are required to disclose all of their assets and debts during the proceedings. If your ex failed to disclose an investment account during the divorce, filing an appeal might enable the court to grant you a portion of the asset in future payments.

Appeals Prior to Judgment

Most appeals happen after the divorce agreement has been finalized. However, some circumstances can lead to an appeal prior to the ending of a divorce case. This often involves child-related issues such as visitation, jurisdiction, and parentage. Appeals of the allocation of parental responsibilities – formerly known as custody – tend to take place before any litigation occurs and may be appealed immediately. If the court allows an early appeal, a party may typically appeal any decision related to the enforcement of the premarital or post-nuptial agreements before the final judgment.

There are other reasons an appeal may occur before the judgment is made. For instance, an appeal on injunction happens when one party wishes to bar the other party from taking a specific action, and it usually happens before the case ends. Furthermore, an appeal on a ruling that holds a party in contempt of court for disobeying a court order can occur before the final judgment, as well.

New Outcome Is Not Guaranteed

Before going through the hassle of an appeal, it’s important to understand that the outcome might not be any different. One reason for this is that, generally, no new documentation is allowed in an appeal. The goal of your attorney in an appeal will be to prove to the appellate court that your assertion is supported by the existing record. Generally, you’ll need a compelling reason to think information that was already presented will be viewed differently the second time around. Your prospects will be higher with an experienced attorney who can help you prepare your paperwork as diligently as possible.

Reopening a final divorce decree can be quite complicated, and the process will go more smoothly if you have all the right information before and during your divorce. The accomplished attorneys at Davis Friedman have the expertise to present your case to the court appropriately and persuasively and to ensure your best interests are met. Contact us at 312-782-2220 for a consultation.

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