Whether a divorce or child custody case is litigated or resolved in mediation, a judge must sign off on the final court order in the matter. The divorce decree or parenting plan then becomes an official court order. There are penalties for violating its terms.
You may wonder what happens, then, if the deal regarding child or spousal support, custody or property division that the court signed off on doesn’t seem right. A situation like that may warrant an appeal.
Who can file a family court appeal (and when)?
You or your former spouse may be eligible to file an appeal. Appellate judges often tend to be hesitant in overturning a family law judge’s decisions, however. Appellate judges tend to only approve such requests if there are issues with a ruling’s enforceability or the agreement contains some type of error.
Why post-judgment modifications are better than appeals
Judges are much more likely to review a family law case to see if a post-judgment modification is warranted than an appellate panel is to consider an appeal. A post-judgment modification is built around the premise that the family situation has changed in some significant fashion that makes the prior order unreasonable.
Court rules only allow you to request such hearings at select intervals — and only with good reason. Some examples of a good reason for a modification might include:
- The onset of a disabling illness or injury by one party that affects their earning capacity
- A promotion or job loss that could change child support obligations or needs
- A parent’s desire to relocate out of the area with their child in tow
In short, modifications need to allege that the circumstances are new, so a new order is needed for parenting, custody or support.
How do I initiate either the appeals or modification process?
If there’s something that doesn’t sit well with you regarding the outcome in your family law case, then you may feel inclined to file an appeal or modification. A careful approach can help you make the right moves toward your goals.