Can I appeal if the judge got something wrong in my divorce trial?

If you went through a divorce trial, it was probably because you and your ex couldn’t agree on some or all of the issues in your divorce. As a result of the trial, the judge divided your shared property and debts, awarded custody and set parenting time, and issued orders regarding any child or spousal support. But what if the judge made a mistake?

You do have the right to appeal some adverse family law or divorce rulings. However, you should be aware that some issues may not be appealable. This is because judges have broad discretion when they determine the issues in divorces and other family law cases. That means that the court of appeals won’t re-decide issues of judgment that the trial court judge has already ruled on.

If the judge in your divorce made a mistake, whether you can appeal or not depends in part on what kind of mistake. Generally, you can appeal factual errors only when the judge was clearly wrong — not simply because you disagree with the judge’s finding on a disputed issue.

Or, you can appeal if the judge made an error in the law. An attorney who handles family law and divorce appeals can determine whether the error in your case is appealable.

Errors by judges do occur, and a second set of eyes may be helpful in spotting them. That’s one reason why you may wish to choose a different attorney for your appeal than you had during your divorce trial.

Issues that you may be able to appeal

Depending on the situation, you may be able to appeal any of the major decisions that were made during your divorce, such as:

  • The division of your property and debt
  • Child custody
  • Parenting time
  • Child support
  • Spousal support or maintenance (alimony)

You might need a modification, not an appeal

One situation where you might be tempted to appeal is when something important has changed since your divorce decree was issued. You may be right that your decree needs to change, but this is not a situation where you can appeal. Appellate courts do not consider new issues or information. If your circumstances have substantially changed since your decree was issued, you should ask the trial court for a modification. A family law attorney can help you obtain a modification to your divorce decree.

Talk to an attorney about your concerns

If you believe a family court judge made a substantial mistake hearing your case, you should contact an experienced attorney who handles family law appeals. They can evaluate your situation and let you know if you have good grounds for an appeal.