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Potential Outcomes Of Divorce Appeals: Affirm, Reverse, Or Remand

After receiving an initial divorce decree from a Colorado family law judge, both parties have a small window of time to appeal the decision. An appeal to change the division of assets, spousal support, or child custody and support may be filed by either spouse. An appeal of a divorce judgment is not a new trial, but rather a request for the Court of Appeals to reexamine whether the Colorado statutes were correctly applied in the matter. There are several ways that the appellate judge may rule. A Colorado family law attorney from Colorado Divorce Law Firm may be able to help you understand whether you have grounds to file an appeal and explain what each of the options may look like in practice. You can request more information about Colorado divorce appeals by calling (720) 593-6442 and scheduling a consultation with our experienced and knowledgeable legal team.

What Colorado Family Law Rulings Can Be Appealed? 

Family law matters that may be appealed involve final orders involving:

  • Parenting time arrangements (physical custody of the child or children) pursuant to C.R.V. § 14-10-123
  • Decision-making authority (the legal authority to decide the child’s schooling, religion, sports activities, or medical care)
  • Child support
  • Division of marital property
  • Spousal maintenance (alimony)

Divorce appeals can only be filed on certain “grounds” –– the legal term for the appellant’s basis for arguing that the trial court’s decision was in error. 

If a divorcing spouse, or their attorney if they are working with professional counsel, brings up a judicial or procedural error during a hearing or the trial, this act of making the error explicit is referred to as preserving the issue. In general, most issues can only be appealed if they were “preserved” during the trial. For this reason it is important both to address any errors during the initial divorce trial while it is still in progress, and to understand the significance of the record as established.

What Are the Potential Outcomes for a Colorado Divorce Appeal?

The Colorado Appellate Rules provide for the following outcomes for a divorce appeal

  • Affirm: The appellate court confirms that the judgment reached by the lower court was appropriate. In this instance no change is made to the existing decree, and the terms of the trial court’s judgment stand as they were originally entered. 
  • Reverse: The Court of Appeals determines that the trial court’s decision is in error, and instructs the trial court to rehear the case (reversal generally may refer to the entire judgment). 
  • Remand: The appellate court sends the case back to the trial court to be reheard, often with instructions to consider an element of law left out of the original decision. A case may be remanded with or without a full reversal.

What Does Reverse and Remand Appeal Mean?

Reverse and remand means that the appellate court reserves the decision that the trial judge made and sends. The appellate court may also change a portion of the original orders and preserve others. The court may note that there were legal or procedural errors without determining that the entire order should be vacated. An appeal that turns on whether the trial court considered all relevant factors appropriately in determining the terms of parenting time and child support, might result in an appeals decision in which the appellate court affirms the division of parenting time but remands the family law court’s ruling for child support back to a Colorado family law judge to be reconsidered.

Should I File an Appeal of My Child Custody Decree?

Spouses considering an appeal of the child custody ruling in their divorce case may wish to schedule a consultation with an appellate lawyer from Colorado Divorce Law Group who may be able to offer personalized legal insights about the situation and evaluate possible errors that the trial judge made. An experienced Colorado appellate lawyer will be in a position to give their professional opinion about grounds for an appeal and what they think an appellate judicial panel may do.

Best Interest of the Child Appeals

Colorado family law judges have considerable leeway to determine what is in the best interests of a child. Although neither side can present new evidence supporting their preferences for access or decision-making rights, either side may file an appeal contesting that the judge’s decision was not in the best interest of the child. 

Evidence for “Best Interest”

In this sort of appeal, the appellant, or their lawyer if they work with professional counsel, will be asking the appellate judge to take a new look at the evidence presented in the initial trial, and either change the custody arrangement based on the evidence or uphold the trial judge’s decision that the arrangement was in the child’s best interest. “Best interest” may be open to considerable interpretation, so part of the appeals process will likely be explaining, in the required appeals brief, how the trial judge misinterpreted the evidence presented. 

Do I Have Other Options Besides an Appeal?

Sometimes an appeal is not the only path toward improving the post-decree situation. For instance, Colorado Statutes § 14-10-129 allows for either spouse to petition the original divorce court for a modification of orders regarding parenting time when such a modification may be in the best interest of the child. 

Modifications of Parenting Time

In evaluating a petition for modification of parenting time, the court’s responsibility will be to make sure that the child’s best interests are upheld. Any decision about who gets to spend time with the child, how much, and when, will be based on factors designed to center this consideration. Particularly if the petition for modification is filed because one parent wants to move far away with the child, the petitioning parent will need to present the court with a new plan for how they will share parenting time fairly, in spite of whatever distance is involved. The court will likely hold a special hearing to decide what is best for the child in this situation.

Modifications of Support Orders

Similar rules and provisions for modification are available for spousal support and child support determinations. Some modifications, however, such as those pertaining to child support decisions, will require the party petitioning for a modification to demonstrate that there has been a “substantial and continuing change” in the circumstances of one or both parents that make the original decision no longer appropriate. 

Professional Help With Colorado Divorce Appeals

At Colorado Divorce Law Group, our experienced family law attorneys apply the finer points of Colorado family law to determine whether the initial trial judge made an error in interpreting or applying the law in your situation. Our attorneys work to evaluate the terms of clients’ divorce decrees to help determine their options for an appeal or post-judgment modification. We are devoted to helping our clients seek the best outcomes for themselves and their families. Call our office today at (720) 593-6442 to schedule your consultation with an experienced Colorado appellate lawyer.