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Divorce Decree Appeals

Once a divorce becomes finalized either in a settlement or through the courts, both spouses have the option to file an appeal. An appeal allows them to dispute specific factors in the outcome. 

Appeals are intended to allow those involved in a divorce to have aspects of the result overturned on the basis that there was an error in law. This can be an error on behalf of the courts, problems with how an agreement was reached, or issues with enforceability. 

It’s unlikely that an appeal to a higher court will have a divorce ruling overturned unless there are exceptional circumstances. In New Mexico, higher courts typically maintain the decision of a lower court unless there’s a compelling reason to believe an error or misjudgment was made. It’s also important to keep in mind that a divorce decree appeal can only be made within 30 days after the final divorce decree is made.

At New Mexico Financial & Family Law, we have a deep understanding of the divorce process legally, financially, and personally. We know that this is likely one of the most stressful events a person can endure, and we have a strong commitment to helping our clients achieve the best results possible. Time is of the essence when filing an appeal, and your appeal must contain a sound legal basis for overturning the court’s previous decision, decree, or ruling.

If you’re preparing for a divorce and need someone on your side, give us a call at (505) 503-1637 or contact us online to schedule a consultation, where we can discuss the details of your case as soon as possible.

When to File an Appeal

When appealing a divorce determination, the appeals court will accept any facts that have been established by the lower court. This means you will not be able to challenge the determinations based on the facts as they stand. You are also unable to introduce additional facts that were not considered in the original determination.

Instead, the appealing party should focus on proving an error injustice was made. You are arguing that, had justice been dispensed appropriately according to the letter of the law (state or U.S.) the final result of the case would have been different.

Let’s say you and your spouse negotiate and agree that they will keep some property which the court valued at $10,000. This would be accepted as fact by the appeals court and you would not be able to dispute it, even if you believe the value of that property is much higher. 

If, however, the legal process used to determine the value of the property was contrary to the intent or literal instructions of the law, your appeal might succeed, and you may have a chance at renegotiating.

Outside of court errors, there are some other reasons a divorce decree appeal might succeed: fraud during the divorce proceedings, the discovery of relevant information that was unavailable during the initial phases of the case, and the concealment of information or assets by the other party are all reasons an appeal might change the final outcome of your case.

The Appeals Process in a Divorce Case

Appeals, particularly when they’re accepted by an appellate court, can take a long time. It’s not unheard of for a divorce case that’s been appealed to last a year or longer. It can also be a costly endeavor, and it can save you, in the long run, to consult with your divorce attorney before making any decisions regarding an appeal. If you and your legal counsel think an appeal is in your best interest, you should be ready to file the appropriate paperwork properly and within the deadline.

Notice of Appeal

The appeals process begins with the appealing party notifying the other party of their intention to file an appeal. They must notify them within thirty days once the final divorce decree is issued by a judge. If you fail to meet the deadline and follow New Mexico procedures, you will lose your ability to appeal, and the original decision will be upheld. 

One thing to keep in mind is that filing an appeal does not automatically put a stay on the initial decision. Any orders that the divorce decree requires you to obey immediately must still be followed until the appeal is successful. 

Once the notice is given, a court record will be compiled consisting of all of the information that was involved in the original case, including everything the two parties submitted as evidence as well as a record of anything that occurred during the court proceedings. 

Appellate Brief

The appealing party should then file a brief, which provides the legal arguments used to support an appeal. If errors in the implementation of the law were made, the relevant New Mexico statutes should be referenced, and an explanation should be provided on how the error affected the final outcome of the case. Once submitted, the opposing party should also receive the brief and have the opportunity to counter with arguments on how the original decree was correct and should be upheld.

In some cases, an oral argument may be granted, requiring a brief verbal argument to be made without any witnesses or new evidence. Generally, however, an appeal is an all-written process.

The Decision

The appellate court will then make a final judgment on the case. If they Affirm the initial decision, the original divorce decree is upheld. If they reverse the decision, the court decides that the initial decision was incorrect, and a new trial may need to be held. If they Remand the decision, the case will be sent back to the lower court for a new hearing. If they Modify the decision, a part of the initial decree will be amended.

Get Help With Your New Mexico Divorce Appeal

If you are considering appealing the decision a judge made in your divorce case, you need to act quickly. You only have thirty days to file a notice of appeal and it could help your chances at success to have an experienced legal team on your side before you do so.

New Mexico Financial & Family Law have decades of experience helping those going through the difficulties of divorce. Call us at 505-503-1637 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at no risk to you and we can discuss the details of your case and what options you have at your disposal.

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