Can You Appeal a Divorce in Arizona
The family court process is complicated enough. Can you appeal a divorce case Arizona? You will need this information if you are unhappy with the outcome of your divorce decree. Unfortunately, decrees sometimes seem inequitable, unfair, or unjustified based on the parameters of the current law and the specific facts of your case. It is important to understand that a final divorce decision does not necessarily mean the matter is closed.
There are routes that you can take to have the decision re-evaluated via the Arizona appeals process. Your divorce case will be heard by the superior court in Arizona, which will listen to witnesses and weigh the evidence presented to issue a ruling. Since the appeal is heard in a different court, it can potentially result in a different outcome.
What Is a Divorce Decree?
A divorce decree is a legal document that is signed by a judge to both formalize and finalize the decisions related to a divorce. It is the last step in a divorce court proceeding and includes the pronouncement of the divorce as well as all its terms.
A divorce decree can include proof that you have legally changed your name and reverted to a former name. It will also include the reason for the divorce and the type of dissolution of marriage granted. A final divorce decree can only be reversed by a successful appeal or post-decree motion.
How Can I Appeal a Divorce in Arizona?
An appeal is a request and application for a higher court to review and potentially reverse a lower court’s final divorce decree. The intent of a decree is to reverse a flawed divorce order. An appeal can be made for either a court decision or a settlement agreement. The person who files the appeal (the appellant) requests that a higher court re-evaluates the trial court’s order relating to the trial court judge’s award of child support, parenting time, child decision-making, alimony, or division of assets. The appeal can be on the grounds of a single issue or multiple issues with the divorce decree.
An appeal can be filed by one or both divorced spouses. Unfortunately, it is difficult to win an appeal of any final judgment, including a divorce judgment. In addition, an appeal can potentially extend your divorce for months or even years, so the delay must be considered when you are contemplating appealing your divorce decree. Speaking with an AZ divorce attorney can shed light on the expected length of the appeal process and whether the time and money invested would be worth the outcome.
Establishing Grounds for AZ Divorce
There are many grounds for appealing a divorce decree in Arizona. If the divorce proceedings did not include certain marital property, there are grounds to appeal the divorce ruling. There are also grounds for appeal if the decree was based on fraud or falsehoods from the other involved party. The division of marital property can also be appealed if it is found one spouse squandered marital assets.
If the decree was based on an incorrect application of the law or other legal concerns that were caused by the judge, an appeal also has grounds. However, it is important to note that a mistake by the judge is not enough to show grounds for an appeal—an attorney must prove that the mistake caused substantial harm to one party and impacted the final divorce decree. If you believe your divorce decree has valid cause for an appeal, you should reach out to an experienced divorce attorney to examine your case and determine the likelihood of appeal success.
AZ Divorce Appeal Timeline
There is a small window to file for a divorce appeal in Arizona. Once the divorce decree is issued, the wronged party only has 30 days to complete the appeal paperwork and get it signed and filed with the court. This deadline can be extended in certain circumstances by petitioning the court for an extension, but this deadline is typically extremely strict. In most cases, missing the deadline will prevent you from pursuing a divorce decree appeal.
Once the Notice of Appeal has been filed and served to all parties, you must then prepare the Record of Appeal. This record consists of both the court reporter’s trial transcript and the clerk’s record. The court reporter’s trial transcript is a typewritten record of everything said in court in the presence of the reporter, including testimony by witnesses, statements by the judge or other parties, and attorney arguments. The clerk’s record includes all the papers, documents, pleadings, and other written documents filed with the court for the divorce, along with any documents and exhibits introduced at trial. Once the documents have been submitted, the parties must wait for the case to be reviewed by the appellate court. Depending on the caseload the appellate court is experiencing when you file, it can be weeks or even months before your case is reviewed.
So, what happens at an appeal hearing in Arizona? Once the case is accepted by the appellate court, the main form of argument is the written appellate brief. This document is filed by counsel for each party and contains the legal argument supported with references to any applicable case law, statutes, documents in the clerk’s record, and reporter’s transcript. It is possible the court may grant you the right to an oral argument, but it will typically be no longer than 15 to 30 minutes. No new evidence can be submitted in the arguments, nor will the court hear from new witnesses.
After the appellate court has collected the Record on Appeal, the Appellate Brief, and heard any oral argument it requires, a ruling can be made. The typical waiting period for a ruling is 30 to 60 days after the record is complete. A successful appeal will take much longer than an unsuccessful appeal.
If your divorce decree appeal is successful, there are several different things that can happen next. The outcome depends on the nature of the issue and how that issue affected the divorce decree.
If your ex-spouse has been successful in appealing your divorce decree, it is likely in your best interests to hire an experienced divorce attorney. They can help see you through the process following the successful appeal to ensure you maintain fair divorce terms.
Arizona Divorce Appeal Vs. Modification
Both appeals and modifications can change a divorce decree, but there are different processes involved for each. They also have different requirements and can lead to alternative outcomes.
Appeals are intended to overturn a divorce decree that was based on fraud, misapplication of the law, deception, or other legal issues. They must be filed within 30 days of the final divorce decree and can potentially result in an entirely new divorce trial. This process can be lengthy and expensive.
A divorce modification is meant to alter part of an existing divorce decree when the circumstances or situation of one or both divorced spouses changes. The involved parties can pursue modifications even years after a final divorce decree, and a modification can potentially be obtained without prolonged or extensive proceedings. Aspects of the divorce that can be modified include spousal support, property division, child support, and child parenting time/ legal decision-making. The modification process is much less expensive and more likely to result in a change to certain aspects of the divorce decree.
Arizona Divorce Appeal Alternative
There is another step an aggrieved spouse can take prior to a direct appeal to the Arizona Court of Appeals. A spouse that is unhappy with the divorce ruling can motion to the trial court for clarification or reconsideration of its own ruling. Either party of the divorce can motion for the court to clarify or reconsider the judgment. This action is not an objection but instead a request that the court reviews the relevant evidence and any applicable laws to potentially change the initial ruling.
If you are filing a motion for clarification, you believe the court’s order is confusing, or the wording of the ruling allows for more than one reasonable interpretation. Motioning for reconsideration means you would like the trial court to re-evaluate its determination for the divorce. This motion specifies the error of fact or law that is believed to have occurred and requests the court review the issue. It is usually the same trial judge that either grants or denies the motion, then conducts the review if the motion is granted. A motion for reconsideration is less likely to be granted than a motion for clarification, but it is not an impossibility. If the motion is denied, the next step is to file an appeal.
Arizona Divorce Appeal FAQs
Find Help for an Arizona Divorce Appeal
It can be extremely complicated to determine whether your divorce appeal has grounds in the Arizona appellate court. Even if your case does have grounds, the timeline to submit the required paperwork is short, and the paperwork can be difficult to complete correctly. Failing to successfully submit your Notice to Appeal will most likely result in losing the ability to file an appeal. Though you can submit a request for a modification, you will need to prove a change in life circumstances has made the current divorce settlement inequitable.
Retaining an experienced, AZ divorce attorney with previous exposure to appeals will give you the best chance of success. The attorneys at The Valley Law Group possess the strategic problem-solving skills and tenacity necessary to see your case through to the end. Our team can explain the appeal process for your case and the likelihood of different outcomes, so you can fully understand the benefits and drawbacks of following through with the appeal.
Jonathan Roeder, Co-Founder of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.