Have you recently gone through a divorce that didn’t exactly go your way? It can be extremely difficult to proceed with a divorce- to pay for an attorney, to use up all the time that you did, and to not obtain the result that you were hoping for. When you attempted to settle the divorce with your spouse you were unable to do that. What you had to try for next was a trial by judge. You felt like your options were limited at that point. Not only were you unaware of what your chances at getting another opportunity in front of the judge were but you were just plain tired. It’s tough going through with divorce only to have a trial not go your way. 

Appealing a divorce in Texas can be done. The key to this discussion is discerning your reason for wanting to appeal the divorce. Having a solid enough reason to try and appeal the case is what you need to figure out. It’s not that you have to be dissatisfied to a certain level to appeal your case, but you must be able to have grounds for appeal that are valid under Texas law. If not, you will not be able to appeal your divorce and would have to live with the results of your case. 

To start with, reading through blog posts like this one is a good place to start. This will allow you to obtain a basis of knowledge for learning about the appeal process. From there I would recommend contacting an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to learn even more about the appeals process in the context of a divorce. You can provide information about your specific circumstances to the attorney that you meet with and can then receive feedback about your life and the prospects of appealing a decision by a family court judge. 

How does your final decree of divorce come into play?

A final decree of divorce is the court order produced by your divorce case. This document that is typically long contains all the information about your divorce case. This includes issues regarding your children, child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and a division of your community estate. Needless to say, this is a very important document and is the reason why you get divorced in the first place. You go through all of the difficulties associated with the divorce to obtain this court order which you and your spouse will both use in the future to ensure that the other is abiding by the agreement made or the orders of the judge.

Contrary to what many people think, your divorce is not over with immediately after the trial. Your divorce is over When the final decree of divorce is signed by the judge. Typically, you, your spouse, and both attorneys involved in your case will also sign the document. The Final decree of divorce contains your name in that of your spouse as well as the cast number. This way the order can be identified especially if you need to appeal your case in the future. The same court would hear your appeal that issued the divorce decree. At the end of the final decree of divorce will be the date on which your final decree would become final.

Here is where the chances of an appeal come into play for your case. If you believe that the divorce decree has some accuracies or is unfair based on the facts and evidence of your case, you can and should pursue an appeal. When I say pursue, what I mean is to simply consider whether an appeal is appropriate and to gain more information. As we talked about earlier in today’s blog post the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are ready and equipped to assist you with an appeal of your case. However, time is of the essence, and you do not have an unlimited amount of time to wait to determine what you want to do. Therefore, collecting information and then deciding is of the utmost importance.

Appealing a divorce decree in Texas

There are several reasons why you may be interested in contesting your divorce decree. Simply being upset at the results of your case or operating under the belief that something needs to be done at this stage to protect you or your children is not necessarily one of them. As we talked about at the beginning of today’s blog post you must have valid grounds to move forward with the divorce case. Learning what those grounds are and how to apply them to your case is what an experienced family law attorney can assist you with period otherwise, you may be in a position where you struggle to figure out what direction you should go in or even if it is worth your time trying to appeal your divorce decree.

Appealing a divorce decree on grounds that the judge made an error in applying the law is probably the first place you should look to where the filing your appeal. The Texas family code is going to contain all the statutes that a judge would have utilized to apply state law to your case. Therefore, you and your attorney should review the judges’ decisions from the court and your final decree of divorce when determining whether there are valid grounds to appeal that divorce decree. As you can see, you need to be able to have an experienced family law attorney guiding you during this time because it is unlikely that you will be knowledgeable of the Texas family code sufficient to make a point in this regard.

Another interesting point that I will make is that many people believe that they will be able to learn what it takes during a divorce to determine whether an appeal is in their best interest or simply just to learn about the divorce process. However, bear in mind that just because you have a divorce case ongoing does not mean that the rest of your life is put on hold. There are going to be many other circumstances that can impact your life moving forward such as your family, your work situation, and a long list of other considerations. Just because you will be going through a divorce does not mean that these issues will all go away. As a result, you need to be able to work with an experienced family law attorney to help you get through these topics so that you will be as well prepared as possible when it comes to making an important decision like whether to appeal your divorce. 

An appellate court would review the decisions of your judge would determine whether to move forward with your appeal. Not agreeing with the judges’ decisions is not grounds to appeal your case. In fact, in appellate court who would look at the evidence most favorable to the lower court’s determination. It is not as if he will be able to present new evidence or as if an appellate court will look at the evidence in the light most favorable to you. Rather, the appellate court will essentially look for any reason not to grant your appeal. So, you must have very strong grounds for an appeal and be ready to present those grounds in your petition to appeal the case.

Grounds for an appeal of your divorce

Sometimes you or your attorney may discover information that could not have been reasonably discovered during your divorce case itself. In that case, you can alert the appellate court to that information or those facts to determine whether they would potentially be sufficient enough to overturn the decision of the judge. For example, if it came to light that your spouse was hiding Community property from you or that other financial documents, we’re not provided to you in discovery but that you could not have learned about that during the divorce itself could be used as grounds to appeal your case. You’re looking for documents that existed but could not have been reasonably discovered by you or your attorney during the divorce itself. Not requesting discovery and then finding out after the divorce that there were simple documents that could have changed the outcome of your case are not grounds for an appeal.

Next, a court could determine that your spouse concealed evidence from you and your attorney during your divorce. Again, failing to disclose every single document related to the division of your community property is not necessarily concealing assets or critical information. He or she was under no obligation to turn over every document under the sun when it came to any subject. So long as he or she made known the most relevant documents or responded to discovery appropriately then failing to come forward with every document imaginable is not necessarily grounds to appeal your divorce. This is a circumstances-based issue that you should probably run by your attorney before filing an appeal.

When issues of duress, perjury, or fraud come to play these would also be potential grounds for an appeal. From my experience, fraud or duress rarely comes to play but if you have proof that your spouse or an important witness of theirs lied on the witness stand then this will be valid to consider an appeal. This is true especially if the judge relied a great deal upon the testimony of one witness or another when it comes to the results of a trial.

Similarly, if A judge allowed evidence to be admitted into the record over and above an objection then these are potential grounds for an appeal. This is a very specific area of the law it is not something that I would necessarily recommend that you consider too much without the assistance of an attorney. Once you get into issues related to the admissibility of evidence in a family court appeal case you have the situation on your hands where you need to be sure about what you are doing. For that reason, having an experienced family law attorney to assist you in your appeal is a great idea.

What is the process like to appeal a divorce decree in Texas?

There is a basic procedure that you will need to follow when it comes to getting a divorce decree appealed correctly. A motion to appeal the judge’s decision must be filed in the appropriate appellate court for your county. There are 14 appellate courts in Texas for you to possibly file your appeal in. However, you must be aware of the correct court for your jurisdiction and follow their rules when it comes to filing an appeal.

A complaint would be filed with your motion for an appeal that specifies the grounds on which you are basing your appeal and the specific reasons from your case why you believe an appeal is appropriate. Evidence must also be provided to the court to show why its appeal is appropriate. The trouble with an appeal is that a court can take a rather long time to decide whether to grant your request. All the while you must wait for the court’s decision and cannot move forward with other areas of your life while you wait. It could be like your entire life is put on hold to wait on whether your appeal is granted.

What if you cannot get your appeal granted?

it is very possible that your appeal request will not be granted by the court. In that case, you need to know what options are potentially available for you. Not having valid grounds to appeal your divorce decree does not mean that you have no options to consider. However, you need to be aware of what those options might be to pursue those grounds. Likely, your best option after having your request for an appeal granted would be to have your case modified by filing a modification.

Just as we saw with that appeal, however, there are certain grounds in certain areas of your divorce decree that can be appealed under Texas law. For one, there must have been a material or substantial change in circumstances that you have under God, your spouse is under God or one of your children has undergone since the last time you were in court. This is a high burden to meet and reflects the hesitancy that courts have about overturning divorce decrees even in part. For that reason, you should make sure that you have grounds for an appeal before moving forward with the case. To file an appeal when you do not have the right circumstances to do so could mean wasting time and resources that could be better utilized in other areas. 

Spousal maintenance is an area of your divorce decree that can be modified. The grounds to modify spousal maintenance are a material and substantial change in circumstances involving you or your ex-spouse. Those material and substantial changes usually revolve around your ex-spouse either remarrying or moving in with a partner with whom they are engaged in a romantic relationship. Proving that he or she has moved in with a romantic partner is the most important aspect of this type of modification. You can potentially have the burden of paying spousal maintenance removed if you successfully prove that this has occurred. 

Next, probably the most frequently filed for a reason to modify a divorce decree is regarding child custody and visitation. When we file for modification on either of these areas, it is usually due to something no longer working in the possession schedule for the kids. Either you want more time, the kids need a schedule change to accommodate their changing needs or another issue has come up with you or your ex-spouse. In either case, a modification on child custody matters can relate to time with the kids or your conservatorship rights. 

Finally, child support issues can be modified as well. For example, suppose that your child developed a disability over the past few years that makes the current amount of support no longer viable. In that case, you should consider modifying the child support to take into consideration these circumstances. Or, you may have had your income significantly reduced due to a job change or a disability suffered on your part. A modification would be appropriate to consider in any of these circumstances. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.