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Can You Appeal a Decision in Your Divorce?

Divorcing your spouse is intended to be a permanent, binding decision. However, if you litigate your split, you may be unsatisfied with the judge’s rulings. That is why you have the opportunity to appeal decisions that you believe are unfair. 

Appealing divorce rulings should not be done lightly. It can take significant time and effort, and there is no guarantee that your appeal will be successful. However, if you believe your rights have been violated by the divorce decree, this is an invaluable tool to receive a fair order. Here’s what you need to know about whether you can appeal a divorce judgment in Oregon and how the appeal process works. 

How Divorce Appeals Work

Appealing your divorce decree will not overturn your split. The appeals process generally aims to identify and fix mistakes or biases in legal proceedings. In divorce court, this means helping people who have received obviously unfair divorce decrees because of errors that occurred during the original trial.

These appeals happen after your divorce has been finalized. They are not an opportunity to relitigate the entire split, and you cannot enter any new evidence or witnesses. Instead, the appeal typically focuses on a specific problem within the final divorce decree that the plaintiff argues violates the law. This matter is brought before the court of appeals to determine if the lower court made a mistake. 

The court of appeals will review the circumstances and rulings made by the lower court. You and your attorney are responsible for demonstrating that there is some error worth overturning the lower court’s order. If you succeed, the appellate court may issue a new order or return the matter to the lower court to be relitigated.

When May You Appeal a Divorce Decree

There are three general circumstances in which a divorce decree can be appealed. The first is if the original court made a legal error. This may include problems such as:

  • Misapplying a law, such as requiring you to meet standards that are not relevant to your case.
  • Misinterpreting a law, such as applying the rules for long-term marriages to a relationship of just a year.
  • Making procedural errors, like failing to enforce rules regarding financial reporting. 

The other judicial reason you may appeal your divorce decision is if the trial court abused its discretion. Judges are supposed to be unbiased third parties, but they are still human. If they let their personal biases affect their decision, they may abuse their discretion and purposefully issue rulings that violate the law. This may include problems such as:

  • Giving the mother priority in child custody and support despite Oregon’s laws requiring otherwise.
  • Assuming a husband has less need for spousal support despite his lower income.
  • Allowing racial bias to affect rulings on dividing assets.
  • Ignoring evidence to support their preferred outcome.

Finally, you may be able to appeal a decree if you have uncovered information that would have materially affected the outcome of your split should the court have known about it. This can occur if:

  • Your spouse lied about their finances. 
  • Your spouse hid assets from you. 
  • You discovered that your children’s parentage differs from what you believed during the divorce proceedings. 

In these circumstances, the judge could or would not provide a fair ruling due to bias, mistakes, or withheld information. As a result, an appeal may allow you to address the unfair aspects of the verdict. 

How to File a Divorce Appeal in Oregon

If you have determined that you need to file a divorce appeal, the process can be time-consuming. It’s essential to start your appeal as soon as possible to ensure you meet state deadlines. In Oregon, you need to file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the original order being signed or the discovery of new information that would have materially affected your decree. You will also need to serve your ex-spouse with copies of the notice, so they can respond. 

Once the notice is filed, you and your attorney will prepare what is known as a “record of appeal.” This includes a complete written transcript of the entire trial and a case record of all documents and pleadings. You may not include any new information. Your attorney will go on to write and submit an appellate brief explaining why you’re appealing the order and the grounds for your appeal. Your spouse will need to have one written as well. Once these are received, you will schedule a hearing with the appellate court, which may take months. 

At the hearing, the court will listen to your respective arguments. They will then take your case “under advisement” or take time to review your documents and make a decision. This may take up to another three months. They may affirm, reverse, modify the order, or remand the case to the trial court. 

Alternatives to Appealing Divorce Decisions

Appeals aren’t the only way to request changes to your divorce orders. You can also request modifications after the fact. These modifications allow you to have changes made when there were no mistakes or missing information during the trial, but your circumstances have since changed. For example, if you have lost your job, you can request a modification to spousal support orders, so you are not obligated to pay when you have no income. 

If you want changes made to your divorce decree, you need an expert lawyer. The experienced family law attorneys at Regele Law, LLC are prepared to help you determine if you need to file an appeal or a modification and explain which will work best for your circumstances. Learn more by scheduling your consultation today.