When two individuals file for divorce, it is unlikely that both spouses agree on the final outcome. Depending on the outcome of your divorce settlement– child custody and visitation, spousal support, and even the disposition of the trial judge– you may be left feeling as though the final divorce papers were unfair. In some cases, this displeasure is so strong, one might ask the question: “can a divorce decree be reversed?”

In most cases, the answer to this question is “no,” however, there are options for modifying an existing decree to change certain aspects of the ruling. While this can alleviate perceived injustices, you must first prove an injustice occurred.

Keep reading below to learn more about your options for appealing your divorce case and whether it is the right decision to address your concerns.

What is an Appeal?

A legal appeal is a process in which you attempt to change or reverse the opinions solidified in your divorce decree.

When looking to appeal a judicial ruling, there are time restraints that are important to recognize. If you pass one of these deadlines, you no longer have the right to bring forth additional litigation. Each type of procedure is governed by its own rules and timeline, the three below being the most commonly occurring:

Motion for a rehearing

A rehearing is a type of procedure in which you ask the judge to alter their final ruling based on some kind of error. For this motion, you are only allowed 15 days after the entry of the judge’s order to file with the court. Time is of the essence when resolving any last-minute mistakes.

Modification of Child Support

There is generally no set time limit to file a modification of child support in the state of Florida. There is, however, quite a bit of financial paperwork that must be completed on each side of the case making this a potentially time-intensive action to take.

(Due to the high volume of child support modifications, these proceedings are discussed in more detail later in this article.)

Traditional Appeal

The traditional appeal process is the most lengthy of the three as it requires you to reopen another case at the appellate level. This is akin to engaging in an entirely new lawsuit. As such, you can appeal your divorce (or an aspect of it) at any time of the process.

Out of the three options, filing and engaging in a traditional appeal is the most time and resource intensive. The process could take several months to over a year to complete, incur both legal fees and costs, and still not provide you with a guaranteed outcome in your favor.

What Are You Allowed to Argue in an Appeal?

Just because you are allowed to appeal your case does not mean you have the opportunity to re-litigate your entire divorce. This is because Appeals are meant to solve specific disputes regarding poorly followed laws.

As such, there are three general rules that apply to appeals:

  1. You cannot bring in new evidence or gather new information that was not already used in your underlying divorce
  2. You cannot simply disagree with your ruling, you must have a specific legal standing that you believe was not properly followed by your judge’s ruling
  3. If it applies, you must prove that information was concealed in the original litigation that, if discovered earlier, would have likely changed the outcome of your case

If you cannot meet these requirements, it may be better to accept the nature of your decree. This is especially true of the second point as, if you cannot argue specific laws and standards were not followed, there is no basis for you to engage in an appeal.

Do I Have the Budget for an Appeal?

If your counsel determines that you have standing to engage in appeal, you must then think through the potential financial consequences of such an action.

Appeals are time and resource intensive for legal counsel on all sides, as such, they will incur a large amount of fees. Additionally, if you are the one bringing the appeal, you will be responsible for other related expenses such as the disbursement of appellate motions, court reporting, and the like.

For many individuals, the appeal process is more expensive than their initial trial. Should they lose the appeal, they could further be ordered to reimburse their former spouse for their legal fees and costs. This makes the appeal process a volatile financial liability to bring forth in the court.

To understand if this is a risk you are willing to take, formulate a budget and see what your final numbers indicate.

Child Support Modifications: When You Don’t Need an Appeal

There are a few common circumstances in which individuals believe they have to appeal or modify their divorce decree when, in reality, they can file for a modification, instead. This is cheaper and simpler in the long run, most commonly used to modify child support payments and parenting plans.

In these cases, Florida allows for a change to child support arrangements at any point where a parent can prove a “substantial change in circumstances.” Such changes include:

  • Severe reduction in childcare costs (such as no longer needing day care)
  • Significant reduction in the paying parent’s income
  • Job loss
  • Hospitalizations or unexpected medical expenses
  • Change in parenting schedules

In florida, you are allowed to petition for a modification if the change you are requesting results in either a 15% or $50 change in funding– whichever is greater. Once petitioned, the modification is ultimately decided based on what is in the best interest of the child.

Seeking Legal Counsel

The divorce process is legally binding and family law is complex– gaining legal advice from seasoned attorneys and cultivating a strong attorney-client relationship is one of the only ways to ensure the best outcome of your case.

Dave Roy Law, located conveniently in West Palm Beach, can handle all your divorce needs. Staffed with experienced divorce attorneys, there is very little we have not seen. If you are looking to begin your divorce proceeding, start on the right foot by contacting us at 561-729-0095 to schedule an appointment.