Not every case is meant for the appeals process, but when you think the trial court may have erred in your divorce case, you may want to consider an appeal. You must base your appeal on more than just a disagreement with the judge’s opinion. Rather, you must identify a legal error in the final decision. If you think you may want to appeal your case, the first thing you should know is that you must act quickly. You only have 30 days to file your Notice of Appeal, so the sooner you get started, the better.
Common reasons for a family law appeal
There are many aspects of a divorce case that one can appeal, but some issues are more common than others. Common reasons for an appeal include:
- Property valuation – There are often different ways to approach the valuation of certain properties and the parties may differ over choosing the valuation method. If the trial judge errs in assessing the property, one side may try to appeal.
- Child custody decisions – Parents often feel very strongly about the child custody outcome in their case. Indiana law contains many factors for judges to consider when making their decisions in this area, leaving room for interpretation.
- Property distribution – To some extent, the judge has discretion regarding how to distribute the property and achieve an equitable division under Indiana law.
The important factor in your appeal is not the issue itself, but whether the judge made a legal mistake that is ripe for appeal. Another important factor is whether your trial attorney properly preserved your issue for appeal. Attorneys do this throughout the case by making certain motions and objections on the record.
The process to appeal in Indiana courts
The first step to any appeal is to find an attorney experienced in the appeals process. Not all attorneys do appellate work and the rules and procedures for the appellate court differ from trial work. Working with your attorney, you must file a petition with the Court of Appeals of Indiana stating your reason for the appeal. You and your opponent will also file briefs with the court that further argue your positions. The judges will evaluate the case based on:
- The trial court record
- The appellate briefs submitted by both parties
- The oral arguments, if requested by the judges
The appellate court generally accepts the facts as the trial court found them. They will evaluate all of the relevant factors in light of the applicable law. You may have to wait weeks or months to receive their opinion. If you disagree with their opinion, you may consider further appealing to the Indiana Supreme Court.