If you recently went through a contested divorce and are dissatisfied with the outcome, one option you may have is to file an appeal. Like other types of civil court orders, your divorce order is subject to review on appeal. But, also like other types of civil court orders, appealing the outcome of your divorce does automatically mean a new trial, and you need to quickly assess whether filing an appeal is truly the best option given the circumstances at hand.
Understanding What It Means to File an Appeal
The process of appealing a trial court decision is entirely different from what you experienced during your divorce. During your divorce, your attorney and your spouse’s attorney presented evidence to the court and likely filed a number of different motions arguing the various legal reasons why each of you were entitled to the outcomes you desired. In the end, the trial court judge rendered a decision based upon his or her interpretation of the facts under Ohio’s divorce laws.
In an appeal, you do not argue the facts. An appeal isn’t a “do-over,” and the appellate court’s role is not to re-try your divorce. Instead, in order to file an appeal, you must be able to argue that the trial judge made a mistake. Not just any mistake, but a mistake that was so “prejudicial” that it resulted in an unfair outcome in favor of your former spouse.
This, as you might expect, can be a challenge. It can also be time-consuming (and costly), and the outcome is never guaranteed. Trial court judges have a significant amount of discretion and demonstrating that the judge in your case abused his or her discretion (one of the most common forms of prejudicial mistakes) requires a very unique set of circumstances.
Potential Alternatives to Appealing the Outcome of Your Divorce
1. Motion for Modification
In many cases, a better alternative will be to file a motion for modification. Seeking modification of a divorce order does not involve challenging the trial judge’s discretion. Instead, when requesting a modification, you present evidence demonstrating that a “material change in circumstances” warrants revisiting the original court award. Requests for modification are most common with regard to:
If you lost your job, your former spouse got a new job, or your former spouse moved to a new home after your divorce, these can all be examples of “material changes” that can justify a motion for modification.
2. Motion for Relief from Judgment
Another option is to file what is known as a “motion for relief from judgment.” If you can demonstrate that the trial judge rendered his or her decision in error – not because of a judicial mistake, but because of an issue falling outside of the judge’s discretion – a motion for relief from judgment may be appropriate. Some of the grounds to file a motion for relief from judgment include:
- A mutual mistake shared by both parties
- Excusable neglect
- Newly-discovered evidence
- Fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct by your former spouse
- Any other reason that justifies a change in the outcome of your divorce
Schedule a Free Consultation at Laubacher & Co.
For more information about your options with regard to filing an appeal, motion for modification, or motion for relief from judgment, contact Laubacher & Co. to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys. To discuss your situation in confidence, call our Cleveland, OH law offices at (440) 336-8687 or request a consultation online today.