A Comprehensive Guide To Divorce Appeal Procedures

Large yellow binder labeled “Divorce” resting on table with documents, ballpoint pen, and calculator.

A Comprehensive Guide To Divorce Appeal Procedures

Divorce can be an unfortunate and challenging process for everyone involved, particularly when either of the former spouses is unhappy with the contents of the divorce decree, defined by the United States Government as the official document granting the petition for divorce and establishing the terms under which the couple’s property will be divided; for couples who have children together, the divorce decree will also establish parental decision-making responsibilities and the allocation of parenting time. A spouse who believes the court has made an error in its decision may sometimes seek to file a divorce appeal, but divorce appeals are only granted under a tightly limited set of circumstances. Read on to learn more about Arizona’s divorce appeal procedures, and schedule a consultation with an experienced Arizona family law attorney from the Sullivan Law Office by calling (480) 719-2558 today.

What Is a Divorce Appeal?

A divorce appeal is a legal challenge to the decision reached by the divorce court. Such an appeal aims to alter the terms set by the court in the divorce decree, such as important requirements pertaining to spousal support, property division, child support, and child custody. Worth noting is that a divorce appeal does not prevent a divorce from happening or aim to reverse the dissolution of marriage, but, instead, focuses on obtaining more favorable terms.

To appeal the judgment, the appellant (referring to the person appealing) must file the relevant paperwork to the court outlining their grievances and rationale for changing the decision within a specific period. Arizona courts will only grant a divorce appeal under specific circumstances.

Can You Appeal a Divorce Decree?

The appellant will file their petition with the local court of appeals, which typically favors the opinion of the judge in the original divorce case. Even if the appeal is granted, the appeals court will not rehear the entire divorce case. Instead, a divorce appeal will review whether significant errors took place during the divorce trial, like a legal or factual error, or a judge basing their decision on a biased view or acting outside of their extent of power, such as refusing the presentation of crucial evidence. In essence, the error has to be one that if not made would alter the case’s outcome.

Do You Have To Have a Lawyer To Get a Divorce Appealed?

Although it is possible to appeal without legal representation, those looking to appeal a divorce may consider consulting with an attorney beforehand to gain advice on whether their case is likely to be eligible for an appeal, and on what grounds, as well as other case-specific guidance. Furthermore, the appeal procedures are highly technical and complex, which is why many seek the services of a lawyer to guide them through the process.

How Do You Challenge an Unfair Divorce Settlement?

Challenging an unfair divorce settlement involves applying to an appellate court to reconsider the trial court’s decision. A divorce appeal will often allege that one of the following occurred:

  • Undue influence or duress, whereby one spouse coerced or threatened the other to agree to the divorce settlement terms and sign the settlement agreement
  • A mistake related to an important fact greatly impacted the divorce negotiations and agreement

Learn more about divorce appeal processes, and explore the legal options available to those going through a divorce, by reaching out to a seasoned Arizona family law attorney from the Sullivan Law Office.

What Are the Grounds for Appeal?

A spouse filing a divorce appeal in Arizona will need to cite specific, compelling grounds. Examples of such grounds include the following:

  • Falsehoods or fraud from either spouse, such as concealing, or falsifying, information about an asset’s existence or true value
  • Legal concerns created due to the trial judge’s actions, such as applying the law incorrectly

Regardless of the cause or type of error, the appellant will need to show that the mistake or misinformation substantially influenced the terms of the divorce decree.

Can You Appeal Against a Divorce Settlement?

A divorce settlement, as distinct from a divorce decree, is an agreement the spouses reach outside of court and submit for a judge’s approval. Appealing a divorce settlement is achievable but can be an expensive and challenging process, particularly as reaching a divorce settlement requires both spouses to agree on the terms. To successfully appeal, a spouse needs to argue that issues surrounding the crafting of the agreement render the agreement invalid or unenforceable. Sometimes, resorting to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, like negotiation or mediation, to reach a fairer divorce settlement can be more cost-effective and less time-consuming than attempting to appeal a settlement.

What Are the 4 Steps in the Appeal Process?

A divorce appeal will follow the same basic legal procedures as the appeal in any civil lawsuit. Below are the typical steps for appealing a divorce judgment.

File the Notice of Appeal

According to the Arizona Court of Appeals, the appeal process begins by informing the other party of the appeal and submitting a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the divorce court issuing the divorce decree. There may be exceptions to this timeline for appellants who file extension petitions, but the petition for an extension is usually only accepted in very specific circumstances.

Assemble the Record of Appeal

The Record of Appeal refers to the clerk’s record and the trial transcript produced by the court reporter. The former includes any evidence produced at the initial trial, such as exhibits and documents, alongside all written documentation submitted to the court as part of the divorce proceedings. In contrast, the latter is a written record of what happened in court while the reporter was present, such as witness testimonies, lawyer arguments, and judicial statements. Once the court has these documents, the former spouses must wait until the court reviews the case. The time involved can range between weeks and months, depending on how many cases the court is reviewing at the time the appeal is filed.

Submit Appellate Brief

If the court agrees to review the case, the appellant will need to provide a written argument known as the Appellate Brief. This paperwork comprises the legal arguments supporting the appeal, including court clerk records, reporter transcripts, and references to relevant statutes and case law. In some instances, the court may also permit the appellant to present a short oral argument, usually lasting between 15 and 30 minutes, but the court will not permit the introduction of new evidence or additional witness testimonies.

Await Ruling

The final step in a divorce appeal is waiting for the appellate court to make its decision. Following the completion of oral arguments and the submission of the Appellate Brief, appellants can expect to wait between 30 and 60 days for a ruling. Successful appeals often have longer waiting periods than unsuccessful ones, so although an extended wait may be frustrating to experience, the length of time, in and of itself, is not a reason to grow discouraged. 

Contact an Arizona Family Law Attorney Today

Appealing a divorce may be a suitable option for someone who believes that the initial decision in their case was incorrectly reached. Importantly, such an appeal will only succeed if a senior judge determines that the judge in the first case made a wrong or unreasonable decision; appeal courts are unlikely to overturn decisions just because a different judge may have decided differently. Gain a greater understanding of divorce appeal procedures, and find out how an Arizona family law attorney can aid individuals with family law concerns, by contacting the Sullivan Law Office at (480) 719-2558 to schedule your personalized divorce appeal consultation.