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How to Amend a Divorce Decree

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Following a divorce becoming finalized — whether through settlement agreement or following a court determination — either spouse might still have a chance to contest certain determinations made by the court. One and/or each of the spouses can pursue an appeal or alter their divorce decree. Below is an overview of the appeals and alteration processes.

Having Your Divorce Ruling Appealed

Once the divorce is concluded and a judgment is entered, either or both spouses have the option to appeal the trial court judge’s decision to a higher court. While it’s rare due to deference to the initial judge, an appeals court may overturn a judge’s ruling in divorce cases. Settlement agreements are generally not reversed on appeal if both spouses agreed, unless there were problems with how the agreement was reached or other enforceability issues.

Notice of Appeal

An appeal is restricted to some considerable error that happened throughout trial. If you think there was a factual error or law or an abuse of authority by the judge, then the appellate process starts with a notice of appeal to the other party. There are rigorous procedures and time frames about filing and serving these types of notices. Failure to adhere your state and county procedures could end up in forfeiting your right to file an appeal.

The Record on Appeal

After filing the notice of appeal and serving it on all parties, the Record on Appeal, including the court reporter’s transcript, is created. The county clerk’s record contains all filed court documents, pleas, testimonies, and trial presentations. The court reporter’s transcript is a typewritten record of all spoken proceedings in court, including witness testimonies, attorney arguments, and statements by the judge and parties involved.

The Appellate Brief

The primary documentation of contention on an appeal is a written appellate “brief,” filed by the lawyers for both parties involved. The brief is documentation comprising of legal arguments, backed with source to relevant statutes, case law, the transcript of the reporter, and documentation in the record of the county clerk. The attorneys for those involved present their briefs to the appellate court and they could be allowed the chance to make oral arguments.

Oral Argument

If an oral argument is permitted, each side typically has a minimum of fifteen to thirty minutes to present their arguments. No witnesses are presented, and no new evidence is examined.

The Appellate Decision

After receiving the Record on Appeal and the Appellate Brief, and conducting any necessary oral arguments, the appellate court will make a decision. The timeframe varies by state, but it typically takes 30 to 60 days after having a complete record.

The appellate decision may uphold the trial court’s decision. However, if it doesn’t, the case will be remanded to the trial court to either modify the decision or conduct a new trial.

Motions to Alter the Divorce Decree

The appeals process can be costly and may not produce the desired outcome. On the other hand, a modification, a more cost-effective option, can alter specific aspects of the divorce decree, such as property division, spousal support, child support, custody, and visitation.

To initiate a modification, file a “motion to modify” with the same court that issued the divorce decree. Many states provide forms for this purpose. When crafting the motion, demonstrate changed circumstances justifying the modification, such as job loss or a promotion affecting support payments. Each state has its own rules and evidence requirements for a successful modification.

Modifying child custody is challenging as courts are reluctant to change initial arrangements. However, they may do so when it’s in the child’s best interest and there are compelling changed circumstances. After completing the petition for modification, file it with the court and serve it to your spouse. The court will schedule a hearing, allowing you to present your case.

If both parties agree, attaching their modification agreement to the petition may lead to court approval without a hearing.

Need Assistance with an Appeal or Modification? Get the Outcome You Want with an Attorney

For appeals and modifications, specific requirements and filing deadlines exist. Contact a knowledgeable divorce attorney in your state for guidance and support in managing your divorce judgment. Initiate the process by reaching out to an experienced divorce attorney near you.

Source:

  1. Appeals and motions to modify the divorce decree. Findlaw. (2018, September 19). Retrieved December 21, 2021, from https://www.findlaw.com/family/divorce/appeals-and-motions-to-modify-the-divorce-judgment.html

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