Law Office of Kevin L. Beard, P.A.

Can I challenge a divorce decision?

In the vast majority of divorce decisions made by Maryland family law courts, there's nothing that can be done. The spouses at the center of the case will need to accept the judge's ruling. However, in some situations that are particularly complicated to decide -- or in cases where a judge makes an error -- an appeal may be warranted.

To overturn a judge's decision, the party who wishes to contest the ruling must draft and file an appellate brief. This contains legal arguments supporting why the decision or previous ruling should be overturned. Next, the opposing party will submit a brief arguing why the previous ruling was appropriate.

Finally, the parties may be given the chance to argue their points orally during a hearing. Or, the appeals court will decide the issue "on the record," meaning that it will rely only on the submitted briefs. It's rare that additional evidence will be presented during an appeal. After the appellate court has ruled on the matter, it's not likely there will be an opportunity to go to a higher court.

A court ruling may be appealed, but it's not usual for a spouse to appeal a divorce settlement agreement, when both parties already agreed to the matter. If a spouse wishes to change his or her divorce settlement agreement, then he or she must ask the court for a modification, which is a different legal process.

Maryland spouses who are unsatisfied with their divorce rulings, and believe a ruling may be legally unfair, should talk with their divorce lawyers. A lawyer will be able to assess the decision to determine if a divorce decision appeal is warranted or appropriate.

Source: FindLaw, "Appeals and motions to modify the divorce judgment," accessed Feb. 16, 2017

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