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There Is a Very Short Time Frame to File for a Divorce Appeal

Appeals and Motions to Modify the Divorce Judgment: After a divorce becomes final – whether through a settlement agreement or after a court decision — either spouse may still have an opportunity to challenge certain decisions made by the court or change certain rights and obligations set out in the final divorce judgment. 

As you will read below, there is a very short period of time specified by New Mexico divorce law in which to file appeals to modify the divorce judgment.

New Mexico Financial & Family Law can advise you as to whether you have sufficient grounds for an appeal, and we can assist you with filing the proper forms with the New Mexico Appellate Divorce Court. In cases where additional documentation or legal reasoning is needed to justify your request, we can provide assistance with strengthening your case.

If you want to file an appeal, there is a very short time frame within which to act, so it is vitally important that you seek legal counsel quickly. Likewise, if your former spouse files an appeal you should obtain the services of an attorney, well-versed in divorce appellate law, to protect your interests.

Divorce Judgment Appeals

Either or both spouses can appeal a trial court judge’s decision to a higher (“appellate” or “appeals”) court, but it is unusual for an appeals court to overturn a judge’s decision in a divorce case. This is why you need a highly competent divorce appeals lawyer — someone well-versed in divorce law — handling your case. Contact New Mexico Financial & Family Law for assistance with assembling the legal justification needed to strengthen your chances of a successful appeal.

The following paragraphs contain a brief overview of the New Mexico Divorce Appeals process. If you believe you need legal assistance with a New Mexico divorce appeal, contact New Mexico Financial & Family Law for an initial consultation to get more specific information regarding your case.

Writing Your Appellate Brief

The main form of argument on appeal is the written appellate “brief”, filed by counsel for each party. A brief is a document containing a legal argument that must be supported by references to applicable New Mexico case law and statutes. 

New Mexico Financial & Family Law will prepare a brief for the specific issues being raised in your case. With this brief, the party that claims that they were given an unfavorable ruling in the trial court will argue that the trial court judge incorrectly applied the law in making a decision. The opposing party will argue that the trial court’s decision was correct. The lawyers for the parties submit their briefs to the court and may be granted oral argument. 

As in divorce litigation (trial) issues, New Mexico Financial & Family Law knows the law, and we have a proven success record preparing appellate briefs and arguing divorce appeals.

Reviewing the Record of Your Case

Appeals court decisions usually turn on the “record”, a written version of what happened in the trial court. The success of an appeal, therefore, usually depends on what occurred at trial; new evidence may not ordinarily be introduced on appeal. Once an appeals court has made its decision, the opportunity for further appeals is limited.

Also, remember that settlement agreements usually cannot be appealed if both spouses agreed to the terms of the settlement. So, if you and your former spouse reached a settlement agreement on issues such as property division and appropriate child support payments, and that settlement agreement is approved and finalized by the judge, you are most likely stuck with the terms of that agreement. You may be able to ask the court to modify any judgment arising from the settlement agreement.

Motions to Modify the Divorce Judgment

While appealing your divorce involves challenging the trial court’s decision in front of a higher court, you can also ask the trial court itself to change certain aspects of the divorce judgment after it has been entered — including child custody arrangements, visitation schedules, child support, and spousal support (alimony).

In the family law setting, such a request is usually made by filing a “motion to modify” the divorce decree or judgment. This motion is usually filed with the same court where the divorce was originally filed (and where the divorce judgment was issued). 

For example, if the divorce decree awarded primary physical custody of your children to your former spouse, and you later learn that he or she has been arrested for illegal drug possession, you may be able to ask the court to modify custody based on these new facts. Similarly, if the original divorce judgment required you to pay $2000 in child and spousal support, but you recently got laid off from your job, you can file a motion to temporarily modify support schedules. Our divorce decree modifications page provides more detailed information.

Time Frame for Filing an Appeal After a Divorce Ruling

Although either spouse can request a divorce decree modification at any time after the divorce decree has been entered, there is a very short period of time during which a divorce decree appeal may be filed – in New Mexico, the divorce decree appeal papers must be filed with the Appeals Court within thirty days of the filing of the final decree.

Get Help Understanding New Mexico Divorce Laws and Asserting Your Rights With an Experienced Attorney

New Mexico Financial & Family Law has over two decades of experience assisting clients with matters of divorce. We are prepared to assist with appealing a divorce decree. Call (505) 503-1637 or contact us online to schedule your appointment now.

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