Most divorces end when the court issues the divorce decree. This legal document is the court’s final ruling and contains all the orders and information necessary to end a couple’s marriage. However, in rare circumstances, this might not be the end of the matter.
The judges in California’s family law courts are humans like anyone else. They can make mistakes and issue unjust rulings. If that happens in your split, you may have the right to appeal your divorce decree.
Appeals are substantially different from normal hearings, though. If you’re considering filing a divorce appeal, you should understand how the process works in California.
What Is an Appeal?
Appeals are a legal challenge regarding a court’s decision. When you file an appeal, you’re asking a higher court to review the decision made by the original judge. A panel of appellate judges will review your claim to determine if the initial ruling should stand.
Appeals are not a retrial. You cannot provide new evidence. Instead, you must demonstrate that there was an “error of law” that led to an unjust ruling that seriously and negatively affected you. If so, the decision may be reversed and a new trial held.
What Does an Appeal Accomplish?
You’ll work with your attorney to file a notice of appeal and a brief explaining why you believe the original ruling was unjust or unlawful. The panel of appellate judges will review your case and take one of three actions:
- Affirm: The panel determines there was no substantial error of law that harmed the appellant and affirms the original decision.
- Reverse: The judge decides that there was a substantial error in the original trial, and the initial decision is reversed. Typically, this leads to a new trial.
- Affirm in part and reverse in part. The judge found an error that affected part of the original decision but not all. The affirmed elements will stand, and a new trial may occur to address the matters affected by the reversal.
Grounds for Appealing a Divorce Ruling
You do not always have the right to appeal a judge’s ruling, even if you disagree. The entire point of a family law court hearing or trial is for the judge to make a legally binding decision for the parties. If litigants could appeal rulings just because they disagreed with them, the court system would be even more overwhelmed than it already is.
You may have grounds to appeal your divorce decree if:
- The judge violated state or federal law in the decision.
- The judge abused their discretion by obviously ignoring evidence or demonstrating unlawful bias.
- The judge or your lawyer made a legal error that affected the outcome of your divorce.
- Your spouse hid important information from you that would have had a material effect on the proceedings.
If you believe you have grounds to appeal your divorce decree, you should talk to the experienced attorneys at the Viola Law Firm, P.C. We can help you determine if appealing is right for you and seek a more just decision. Schedule your consultation today to learn more.