Appeals in Divorce Cases
A divorce can be a long and difficult process. When two partners cannot agree on how assets should be divided or custody arranged, going through the entirety of a divorce proceeding can easily take significant time and effort. This is why it is often surprising for divorcing spouses to learn that even after the judge has ruled, their case may still not be over. If one party feels that a ruling has been made in error, that evidence has been unfairly omitted, or that evidence was wrongly included, they may appeal the decision of the divorce court, leading to even more time before an appeals judge resolves the matter. Milwaukee divorce lawyer Terese J. Singer can help you determine whether an appeal in a divorce case may be right for you.The Appeals Process in Wisconsin
In almost every type of legal proceeding, there is an opportunity for one or both parties to appeal. This ensures that there are checks and balances on a judge or jury’s decision and that errors, if they occur, can be rectified. In divorce cases, the parties to the proceeding do have a right to file an appeal if they feel that their case was wrongly decided. They must do so within 45 to 90 days after the judge’s ruling is finalized, depending on certain factors that may arise.
Appeals in divorce cases are first heard by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals is a panel of three judges who review the decision of the lower court, listen to the parties’ arguments, and determine whether the lower court’s decision should be upheld. Appeals before the Court of Appeals typically take around a year. Additionally, to the extent that the Court of Appeals does find that an error occurred, it is more common for the Court to send the case back down to the lower court to address the error rather than correct it itself. This will add even more time to the process of your case.
If your case is reviewed by the Court of Appeals, and you still disagree with the outcome, it may be difficult to continue appealing. In rare cases involving constitutional issues, your attorney may be able to take your case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but in most instances, the Court of Appeals is the last level of review available.How Do Appeals Work?
It is very important to understand that an appeal is not a new trial. The appeals court will not review new evidence or new testimony from you or your opponent. Instead, the appeals court simply reviews the record from below, looks at the lower court’s decision, and determines whether an error has occurred. In most cases, the appeals court gives significant deference to the lower court, making it difficult to find that there was an error.
In family law cases, this is particularly true. One of the primary considerations for the trial judge is making sure that the result is fair and equitable. This is a highly factual, subjective determination that depends on the evidence presented by the parties and how it is presented. For this reason, appeals courts are very reluctant to overturn a lower court decision unless it is clearly erroneous. Clearly erroneous means more than the judge interpreting evidence in a way with which someone could disagree. It usually requires a showing that the judge applied the law in the wrong way, entirely failed to consider relevant evidence, or did not give sufficient support for his or her findings.
Because of this high standard, parties must think very carefully before deciding to appeal a case. Appeals can be expensive and time-consuming, and they can make a lengthy process even longer. Unless you are confident that there are significant errors that need to be addressed, an appeal may not be right for you.Contact a Knowledgeable Divorce Attorney in the Milwaukee Area
At Reddin & Singer, LLP, Attorney Terese J. Singer represents clients in appeals in divorce cases in the instances in which such appeals are warranted. We can help you evaluate the decision in your case, determine whether significant errors occurred in the process of property division or another aspect of the divorce, and advise you on whether an appeal makes sense for you. Contact our office for more information at (414) 271-6400 or online. We represent clients in Milwaukee, West Bend, Waukesha, Racine, Port Washington, and other areas of Milwaukee, West Bend, Waukesha, Racine, and Ozaukee Counties.