A Guide to Appeals

Divorce can be a trying time for all involved parties with most finding relief once the process has been finalized. However, there are instances where an appeal may be necessary if one or both spouses don’t agree with the final divorce judgment. It’s important that each spouse has an experienced family law attorney to guide the entire process as there are many deadlines and procedures to navigate  when completing an appeal successfully.

Is Appealing a Divorce Possible?

There are instances in which the  parties involved in a divorce don’t  agree on all the issues  in the final divorce judgment.  The case may then be presented for appeal. If one or both spouses are unhappy with the final proceedings, the divorce can be appealed to the appellate court, or post-judgment relief can be pursued from the trial court judge. 

The Process of Appeals

In the event of an appeal,  both attorneys create briefs to provide to the Court of Appeals on behalf of each client. The briefs must include a detailed analysis that explains each party’s position on all matters under question. After the case is initiated in the Court of Appeals, the parties will be required to attend mediation. If mediation is not successful, the case will need to be fully submitted to the Court of Appeals, with oral argument scheduled. After oral argument, the Court of Appeals will issue a written decision.

In some instances, an appeal can be ”remanded” back down to the district court, where parties may be required to appear for another hearing before the district court for reconsideration. At this point, the district judge will issue another order. Involved parties must consider the cost that goes into the appeal process, balancing the assets at issue versus the costs of the appeal. 

District Court Decisions and an Appeal

A divorce judgment must be complete before either spouse can appeal the order given by the district court. Filing an appeal must occur within 60 days after one or both parties submit an entry of final judgment. When  deciding to file an appeal, both spouses must keep the following in mind:

  • Overall purpose is based on a court’s error or mistake
  • New information or facts cannot be introduced during the appeal process
  • Deadlines and procedures must be met, or the offending party could forfeit the right to appeal

What Leads to Appealing a Divorce Decree

There are times where one or both spouses don’t agree with the current terms of the final divorce decree and the parties have exhausted all available remedies at the trial court level, meaning an appeal may be the next step to challenge individual decisions made by the court. While the appeals process can be difficult and time-consuming, it may allow parties to modify the final judgment components. The judge involved with a divorce case may make a mistake in the application of the law, and if an appeal is filed, one or both parties must identify the error the judge has made with supporting evidence.

Who Can File?

Either party involved in a divorce can file an appeal after the judge reaches his/her final decision regarding the case. The final divorce judgment will include the judge’s order on various issues, including child custody and support, alimony payments, and property distribution. One or both parties can file an appeal to the final decree simultaneously, and the appeals process will address any alleged errors, if applicable.

Appealing Property Division and Custody/Parenting Time Outcomes

Throughout the United States, many states divide property under equitable distribution guidelines meaning the marital estate may not be distributed precisely equal between two parties, but instead reasonably and logically. The judge considers a variety of factors to determine the best way to divide the marital estate, but both parties are eligible to appeal a property division outcome at any time after a final divorce judgment has been reached. Similarly, a judge is required to consider a variety of factors when determining child custody and parenting time. 

Minnesota Property Division

Married couples in Minnesota who choose to get a divorce are required to involve a judge to ensure financial assets and liabilities are appropriately divided. Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state – meaning it doesn’t matter which  partner is responsible for the marriage  failing. Several factors are taken into consideration when it comes to division of property – from length of marriage and occupations to liabilities and contribution of each spouse. If parties cannot reach a full settlement out of court, they will be required to appear before a judge. This likely would require each party to present their position at a trial, where a judge will make the final decision regarding the parties’ property division.  

Minnesota Custody Decision

There are many laws set forth by statute and case law in Minnesota that help judges determine custody and parenting time, when parties do not agree. If custody and parenting time are at issue, the judge must address the best interest factors as set forth in Minn. Stat. 518.17. If one or both parties are not satisfied with the judge’s decision regarding custody and/or parenting time, they may choose to appeal the court’s order. It is important to note that just because a party does not like the outcome does not necessarily mean that an appeal would be worthwhile. The Court of Appeals gives the trial court wide discretion, especially when it pertains to witness credibility. Accordingly, before jumping into an appeal of a decision on custody and parenting time, it is important to consult an experienced family law attorney. 

How to Appeal a Divorce Judgement

While the appeals process can be time-consuming, it’s essential for one or both parties to come forward should the final judgment appear problematic.. There are many steps to the appeal process, and parties interested in pursuing are encouraged to become familiar with each:

  1. Notice of Appeal: If a party thinks that the judge has made an error, one or both parties may file a notice of appeal to inform all involved as well as the district court that they intend to appeal the judge’s decision. In Minnesota, those wishing to file an appeal must do so within 60 days after the filing of a notice of entry of judgment.
  2. Record on Appeal: Once the court receives the notice of appeal and all parties have been served, documents are compiled of both the court reporter’s transcript and the court record. All materials, information, and trial documentation  are reviewed in the appeal process.
  3. Mediation: Each party is asked to attend an appellate mediation to resolve any underlying issues that may make an appeal seem necessary. If problems remain, appellate briefs and oral arguments must be prepared and filed.
  4. Appellate Brief: The counsel assigned to each party will prepare and file a written appellate brief containing each party’s legal argument and all necessary evidence. Upon review from the appeals court, the opportunity for oral arguments may be a possibility.
  5. Oral Argument: Both parties will share their verbal reasoning for submitting an appeal. These opportunities typically last around 15 minutes each side, making it crucial for a detailed, strong argument to be prepared.
  6. Appellate Decision: Upon receiving and reviewing the record on appeal, the appellate brief, and any oral arguments, the appellate court will make a decision. This process can take up to 90 days after hearing oral arguments. There are instances in which  a trial will be ordered if the appellate court deems necessary.

Final Thoughts

There are many deadlines and procedures to allow for a successful appeal process, so it’s incredibly important to have the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. 

This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.