Sometimes judges issue divorce rulings that people are unable to accept. They may feel that the ruling is unjust, that evidence was ignored or that the law was not followed. A trial is a brief snapshot of the lives of the parties and a judge while both trained in the law and usually experienced at interpreting facts and applying the law to the facts, sometimes misses the boat or allows his or her own bias, beliefs or experiences to interfere with a fair evaluation of the case.
The good news is that "final judgments" are not always final. You have the right under Alabama law to file a motion to alter, amend or vacate the ruling. You may also appeal the ruling to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and then seek review by the Alabama Supreme Court. In certain cases with novel issues or issues with constitutional underpinnings an appeal by invitation may even exist to the U.S. Supreme Court. To be successful on appeal a litigant must prove that the court misapplied the law to the facts or abused its discretion in reaching the conclusions. To constitute an abuse of discretion the court’s decision must be wholly unsupported by the evidence. Great discretion is given to the trial court’s decision and a skilled attorney is needed to review the transcript to paint a picture of an abuse of discretion.Cautions About the Divorce Appeals Process
- Divorce decrees can be appealed, but an appeal is not a full-blown redo of the trial, with witnesses and evidence. The appeals process is a "paper review" — The parties submit briefs or legal documents citing to the transcript from the actual trial and the Appeals court makes its decision based on these arguments and, if allowed, the oral arguments of counsel at a hearing before them. Only the evidence presented at trial is considered.
- Keep your expectations in check. Being unhappy about the outcome of the original trial is not by itself grounds for an appeal. Remember that only 5 percent of divorce judgement are overturned. A large number are simply rubber stamped as “Affirmed no Opinion.” This result after an unfavorable result in the trial court and the effort and cost of an appeal can be very disheartening.
There are many ways to address an error or unjust decision, particularly if the judge's decision ignores evidence presented at trial. Minor errors in the judgment can often be corrected through the filing of motions in the trial court. Unjust results may also be addressed by post-trial motions filed in the same court. Everything done post-trial is subject to strict time limitations so, although you may be confused by the results, you must act quickly to appeal. The time to take action is very limited and time is of the essence. If you have had an unfavorable result in an Alabama divorce trial seek counsel from an Alabama divorce attorney with experience with appeals immediately.First, Talk to Your Original Lawyer
As a first step, we recommend that anyone considering the appeal of a divorce ruling first speak with the attorney who tried the case on their behalf. An experienced Alabama divorce attorney will know about post-trial motions and which issues can be appealed. Many times, clients are unhappy with their original attorneys and don't want to go back to them. Even so, at least speak to this attorney to ensure that timelines are not missed. Then quickly seek consultation with an experience Alabama divorce attorney with experience and expertise in the area of divorce appeals. The Oncale Firm has handled divorce appeals for decades and is ready to help. Call us today.Family Law Appeals Attorney
If you believe the results of your divorce trial are unjust or inconsistent with the evidence presented, please contact or call divorce appeals attorney Shane Oncale at (205) 458-9805 for a free, no-obligation review of your case.