The process of divorce can be a long and winding road, especially if children are involved. Consequently, when the divorce decree is finally issued, parties typically feel a sense of relief gained by the knowledge that they can now move past this period in their life. And, for most divorcing couples, the final divorce order marks the end of the divorce case and the marriage. However, circumstances do sometimes arise that can compel someone to appeal a divorce order, but courts are reluctant to revisit these cases because the integrity of marriage requires that divorce judgments be conclusive and not easily overturned. Despite this policy, courts are willing to reconsider and potentially modify divorce orders for very particular and limited reasons. Given how restrictive divorce appeals are, working to negotiate one’s own agreement is the best method of ensuring the settlement terms are fair. Failing agreement, parties need to present the best evidence to the judge, which an experienced divorce attorney will know how to do. Nevertheless, understanding when a divorce appeal is permitted is important information to have in case an appealable issue does occur.
Legal Options to Revisit Divorce Order
Florida law gives parties in divorce cases several opportunities to request that the court reassess an earlier decision, and the type one files tends to depend upon how much time has passed since the final divorce decree was issued. The first option, and the one with the shortest deadline, is to file a motion for rehearing. This request must be made within 15 days following the issuance of a court order, and is usually the first step in filing a formal appeal. This request is used when a party has a legal basis for appeal, not just an objection based on facts. The judge is not required to grant a rehearing, and has broad discretion to deny it, which is generally what happens.
The next alternative, which is available if the divorce order was issued within the previous 30 days, is to file a formal appeal. This is a very complicated and technical process that takes a considerable amount of time to complete. No new evidence may be presented, and the basis for appeal must rest on a claim that the court misapplied the law. Note that if a party wins on appeal, the case will likely have to go back to the trial court for final resolution.
Finally, if more than one month has passed since the court issued the divorce order, the only option left is to file a motion for relief from judgment. A party has up to one year to file this type of motion. However, these requests are rarely successful, and are only granted in unusual circumstances.
Grounds for Appeal
The legal basis for appealing a divorce order is commonly based on one or more of the following claims:
- the judge made a mistake in the application of the law;
- new evidence was discovered that was unavailable or not ascertainable earlier in the case; or
- fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by the other party. This claim typically relates to concealment of assets by a spouse. Note that while parties usually have just one year to file a motion to set aside a judgment, a special rule exists for divorce cases that completely removes the time restriction if the request is based on fraudulent financial records.
Get Help from Our Attorneys
If you believe a mistaken or a fundamentally unjust decision was made in your divorce case, talk to family law attorney about appealing the judge’s order. The All Family Law Group, P.A. helps clients in the Tampa Bay area deal with variety of family law issues, including divorce appeals. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+