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Navigating The Challenges Of Appealing A Divorce Judgment

Several factors can make the divorce process complicated, including the length of the marriage, the reason for the divorce, the couple’s relationship with each other, the nature, value, and complexity of the couple’s assets, the presence of children, and more. Sometimes couples are able to come to an agreement regarding the essential elements of their asset distribution and key concerns such as parenting time and child or spousal support on their own, and present these arrangements to a Colorado family law court for approval. In other cases, the divorcing spouses are unable to agree, and must rely on the court to devise all arrangements related to the distribution of marital property and any parenting or financial obligations for them. In either case, the court’s decree, once issued, is typically final. Appealing a divorce in Colorado is rare. Under a tightly limited set of circumstances, however, it may be permitted. To learn more, schedule a consultation with the Colorado family law attorneys with Colorado Divorce Law Group by calling (720) 593-6442 today.


Why Appeal a Divorce Decree?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of divorces in the United States has hovered between 2 and 3 per 1,000 people in the total population since 2016. These numbers show an overall downward trend since 2,000, but that trend has been accompanied by a similar decrease in the number of marriages begun annually – meaning that the rate of divorces relative to marriages has remained relatively steady over the past two decades. In each dissolution of marriage, the culmination of divorce proceedings is the judge’s final decree.


Divorce decrees, or judgments, outline several rights and duties of each individual. Critical matters including debt allocation, child custody, and property division, to name a few, will be detailed in the final decree. These are all very serious considerations, and if there was a mistake in a judge’s ruling with respect to any of these issues, appealing a divorce may be appropriate.


Is Appealing a Divorce Difficult?


If either of the former spouses can show reason to believe that there are errors in their final decree, or errors that led the judge to issue a mistaken ruling, then filing an appeal with the appellate court may be an option for addressing that concern. However, it is important to understand that appealing is not a guarantee that anything will be adjusted or changed. Divorce appeals are unusual cases that can be challenging to win. This is why it can be beneficial for individuals residing in Colorado to speak with an experienced family law attorney with Colorado Divorce Law Group to discuss their unique situation.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Appealing a Divorce


The advantages of appealing a divorce tend to be much more straightforward and clear than the disadvantages. A successful appeal may result in a modification to the lower court’s decree. If the portion of the decree troubling to the spouse bringing the appeal is found to have been caused by an error of fact or an error of law, then that portion of the decree may be modified.


The disadvantages may not be as evident at the start of the appeals process. Consider the following:


  • The appeals process can be a prolonged one, so former spouses should not expect to see a quick turnaround.
  • The appeals process can be costly, with additional legal fees.
  • The appeals process can affirm the lower court’s order, in which case the time and expense of a divorce appeal may have been in vain.


When Appealing a Divorce May Be Appropriate and When It Is Not


Not every grievance can benefit from an appeal. Former spouses who are simply unhappy with the terms of the decree are unlikely to find a sympathetic ear in Colorado’s appellate courts. If the terms of the decree are proving untenable due to a change in either party’s circumstances, a petition to modify the original order may be more appropriate. Even if a genuine error is found in the divorce decree – such as a mistake in one party’s income, leading to consequential mistakes in calculations for child or spousal support obligations – then the former spouses may be able to resolve the problem more quickly and easily by drafting and jointly signing an amendment and submitting it to the court for approval than by appealing their original decree.


An appeal might be the right way to meet your objectives, however, when one of the spouses can show compelling evidence that an error of law or fact underlies, and therefore should invalidate, either the entire decree or a portion of it. In general, Colorado appellate courts will not actually reverse a final divorce decree. Instead, the appeals process may be used to challenge certain terms of the decree, which the appellate court will then review. When a trial court has abused its discretion, or the appellant can demonstrate that serious legal errors were made, an appeal may be granted.


Elements of a Successful Divorce Appeal


A Colorado trial judge’s decision is not one that is easily overturned. This is why it is essential to know exactly where the problems with a divorce decree are and what issues lead to the disputed outcome.


In cases where there was clear misunderstanding of the facts or misinterpretation of the law, an appeal could be successful. Some of the elements that might lead to overturning a judge’s decision can include:


  • New facts were found after the case concluded that were previously unknown and that could not have been uncovered while the divorce proceedings were going on.
  • Misrepresentations were made during divorce proceedings that affected the outcome.
  • Assets and wealth were actively hidden during divorce proceedings, which would have affected the outcome, had they been known.


Speak With a Colorado Divorce Attorney Today


The United States Census Bureau shows a year-over-year decline in the rates of both marriage and divorce from 2011 to 2021. Still, both continue to happen – meaning that many marriages will at some point end in divorce. In most cases, the decision entered by the Colorado family law judge in the district court will be final, and may only be modified if one or both spouses can show a “substantial and continuing” change in circumstances, rendering the original decision no longer practical or advisable. However, oversights or inaccuracies in a divorce decree may warrant appealing a divorce. If you believe that mistakes were made during your divorce proceedings and these issues are reflected in your final divorce decree, exploring your options with an experienced Colorado family law attorney may help you understand your rights and determine whether you have valid legal grounds to appeal. To schedule a free consultation with Colorado Divorce Law Group, call (720) 593-6442 today.