It's commonly believed a finalized divorce is the end of the case, that both parties are stuck living with the outcome even if they're unhappy with what they received. The truth is, though, it is possible to appeal a divorce decree to obtain more favorable terms. However, the question you really should be asking is whether it's worth the time and effort to pursue this course of action. Here's what you should know.
There Must Be a Valid Legal Basis for the Appeal
You cannot appeal a divorce simply because you feel like you got shafted by the terms of the separation. If you think the judge should've awarded you the family car instead of your ex, for instance, the courts will reject your motion for appeal. Likewise, agreements where both parties consented to the terms cannot be appealed. Thus, appeals related to divorce settlements negotiated and signed outside of court would be rejected as well.
The only way to solve these two types of problems is to negotiate a separate agreement with your ex-spouse or file a motion to modify those portions of the decree than can be changed after the fact (e.g. child support and child custody orders).
To be eligible for appeal, your case must involve one or more of these legal reasons:
- There were mistakes in applying the law (e.g. property that should've been treated as a marital asset was instead categorized as personal property)
- Your ex committed fraud
- Your ex hid assets or concealed relevant information
- There were factual or evidentiary errors (e.g. your employer misreported your income)
- New information came to light that couldn't be revealed during the case
It's essential you consult with your attorney about whether any of these issues are present in your case and if they're severe and solid enough to justify sending your case to the appellate court.
You Must Have the Financial Resources
Although your divorce attorney may have cut you a deal (e.g. offered lowered rates or a package) to handle your separation from your ex, that bargain may not be available for an appeal case. It's challenging to gauge how long an appeal will take, and there is no guarantee it will end in your favor. Thus, your attorney may charge you differently to handle this type of case, which may mean increased legal costs to you.
Additionally, there are a variety of court costs that must also be paid, such as the filing fee and administrative fees for obtaining copies of transcripts and other paperwork. You could easily end up spending $10,000 or more on the appeal. There's also the possibility you could be ordered to pay the attorney fees for your ex if you lose your case, especially if the court determines you filed it for trivial or malicious reasons.
Discuss the various costs of appealing with your attorney and work out a budget to determine if you can afford it. If the amount you're likely to receive doesn't justify the added expense, you may want to rethink moving forward with the case.
Account for the Emotional and Social Costs
Money isn't the only thing you should be concerned about when deciding whether you should appeal your divorce decree. There may be emotional or social fall out following your decision, and not just from our ex. Any children involved in the situation could be negatively impacted by the animus an extended divorce proceeding can generate, and the decision may polarize friends and family members into taking sides.
Be sure you have the emotional fortitude and support system in place to help you deal with the interpersonal challenges that will come your way.
For help with your divorce, contact a divorce attorney.