• calendar26th Nov 23 11:00 pm
  • userJamie

Errors Of Law Vs. Errors Of Fact: Understanding Their Role In Divorce Appeals

Divorcing couples often disagree over many things. From child custody to child support to the division of property, it is quite common for one or both spouses to walk away unhappy with the final decision. When you are unhappy with the way your divorce was handled, you may be thinking about divorce appeals. However, you cannot appeal your divorce judgment simply because you do not like what the judge ordered. Instead, you must be able to prove there was an issue, such as errors of law or errors of fact. What do these words mean, though? How can you prove such an error exists? If you think there was an error of this nature in your divorce and want to appeal, the experienced Denver divorce attorneys with Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help you. Consider calling (720) 593-6442 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about appealing your divorce.

What Constitutes an Error of Law?

The law may seem very straightforward. However, judges are human and can make mistakes like anyone else. Some laws are written in such a way that it is possible to misinterpret or misapply them. If a judge does not apply the law correctly, this is called an error of law. Errors of law are also sometimes called plain errors when they are obvious.

In some cases, the error of law is significant enough to cause the judge to make a possibly incorrect decision in the case. This provides grounds for one or both parties to file an appeal to try to get the decision changed. Errors of law do not always lead to incorrect decisions, and therefore not every appeal will be successful.

What Constitutes an Error of Fact?

Another error that may occur in a divorce proceeding is an error of fact. Errors of fact occur when the judge misunderstands a fact or when a fact is misrepresented. This misunderstanding or misrepresentation then leads to a possibly incorrect decision because the judge did not have the correct information.

Like errors of law, errors of fact can give one or both spouses grounds to file divorce appeals. However, also like an error of law, errors of fact do not always lead to incorrect decisions, which means that an appeal may not be successful. Individuals considering an appeal based on an error of fact should also note that failing to inform a judge of a fact is not considered an error of fact. This means that parties may not be able file an appeal to try to introduce new or forgotten facts into the case. In some cases, the appeal may only result in the Colorado District Court hearing the same information that was available the first time the case was heard.

What Are Some Examples of a Court Making an Error of Law?

Errors of fact are unique to each divorce, but errors of law are often similar, because the same Colorado laws apply to each divorce. Examples of an error of law include:

  • The court mistakenly assumes jurisdiction over a case that another court should have had exclusive jurisdiction over.
  • Application of the wrong law to a case.
  • Improper interpretation of the correct law.
  • Application of laws or rules to admit or not admit crucial evidence that may influence the final decision.

What Is a Harmless Error?

United States Code Title 28 Judiciary and Judicial Procedure defines a harmless error as an error made by a trial judge that does not affect the substantial rights of the parties to the case. In other words, technical errors that have no bearing on the trial’s result or errors that are corrected before the judge makes their final decision are considered harmless. These errors are considered harmless because they do not affect either party’s rights, and the outcome would have likely been the same even if the error had not been made. These types of errors are often not grounds for appeal, or if they are appealed, they are usually not changed.

Examples of a harmless error might be:

  • If a spouse listed the wrong date that a marital asset was purchased but the incorrect date is still during the marriage, or other inconsequential details that are incorrect.
  • The judge allowed testimony by mistake but did not consider the testimony in making their decision.
  • Errors that are found in the appealing party’s favor.

If you believe an error of law or fact was made in your divorce but you are not sure whether it is a harmless error, Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to go over the details of your case and help you determine your next steps.

When Can You Appeal a Divorce Judgment in Colorado?

The Colorado Judicial Branch Court of Appeals hears divorce appeals. However, they do not hear appeals that are based solely on one spouse not liking the decision made in their divorce. In order to file an appeal in a divorce case, the following criteria must be met:

  • The divorce must be fully decided and the final written order issued.
  • There must be an error of law or fact.
  • The appeal must be filed within 14 days of the order being issued if it is issued by a magistrate or 49 days if issued by a judge.

What Are the Four Possible Decisions That Can Be Issued After an Appeal?

The judge who hears a divorce proceeding has broad discretion in their decisions. The Court of Appeals is limited in the decisions they can make in divorce appeals. They have four options:

  • Affirm: The Court of Appeals can decide the original decision is correct and decline to send it back. They will uphold the decision, and the original decision must be followed by the divorced couple.
  • Modification: If the Appellate Court thinks part of the original decision is incorrect, but not all of it, they can opt to modify the decision. They will change the part they think is incorrect and issue a new order with the change.
  • Remand: This sends the case back to the District Court to be heard again. If the case is remanded, the Court of Appeals is not saying the initial decision was wrong. Instead, they are saying that an error of law or error of fact was made and the District Court should reconsider their decision with the error corrected. In this instance, parties cannot introduce new facts or evidence, and the decision may not change.
  • Reversal: If the Appellate Court thinks the initial decision was wrong due to an error of law or fact, they will vacate it, or make it invalid. This means it is reversed, or sent back to the District Court, to be heard again and a new decision made. Sometimes, this may mean a new trial that allows the introduction of facts or evidence not included in the first trial.

Do You Have Questions About Divorce Appeals Based on Errors of Law or Fact?

For most people, divorce is an emotionally stressful time. Many decisions and statements are made based purely on the emotions present at the time. When it comes to divorce appeals, emotions must be set aside for logic and law. Appeals must be based on errors of law or errors of fact. If you think you may have grounds to appeal your divorce, one of our knowledgeable divorce attorneys may be able to help you determine your next steps. Contact Colorado Divorce Law Group at (720) 593-6442 for a free consultation regarding your divorce appeal.