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Appeals and Motions to Modify a Divorce Decree

After a divorce becomes final — whether through settlement agreement or after a court decision — either spouse may still have an opportunity to challenge certain decisions made by the court, or change certain rights and obligations set out in the final divorce judgment.

Appeals and Motions to Modify a Divorce Decree

Appeals of a Divorce Decree

Either or both spouses can appeal a trial court judge’s decision to a higher (“appellate” or “appeals”) court, but it is unusual for an appeals court to overturn a judge’s decision in a divorce case. Nevertheless, the following paragraphs contain an overview of the appeals process.

The main form of argument on appeal is the written appellate “brief,” filed by counsel for each party. A brief is a document containing a legal argument, supported with reference to applicable case law and statutes With this brief, the party that was given an unfavorable ruling in the trial court will argue that the trial court judge incorrectly applied the law in making a decision. The opposing party will argue that the trial court’s decision was correct. The lawyers for the parties submit their briefs to the court and may be granted oral argument.

Appeals court decisions usually turn on the “record,” a written version of what happened in the trial court. The success of an appeal therefore usually depends on what occurred at trial; new evidence may not ordinarily be introduced on appeal. Once an appeals court has made its decision, the opportunity for further appeals is limited.

Also, remember that settlement agreements usually cannot be appealed if both spouses agreed to the terms of the settlement. So, if you and your former spouse reach a settlement agreement on issues such as property division and appropriate child support payments, and that settlement agreement is approved and finalized by the judge, you are most likely stuck with the terms of that agreement. You may be able to ask the court to modify any judgment arising from the settlement agreement, however (more on this in the next section).

Motions to Modify a Decree of Divorce

While appealing your divorce involves challenging the trial court’s decision in front of a higher court, you can also ask the trial court itself to change certain aspects of the divorce judgment after it has been entered — including child custody arrangements, visitation schedules, child support, and spousal support (alimony).

In the family law setting, such a request is usually made by filing a “motion to modify” the divorce decree or judgment. This motion is usually filed with the same court where divorce was originally filed (and where the divorce judgment was issued).

For example, if the divorce decree awarded primary physical custody of your children to your former spouse, and you later learn that he or she has been arrested for illegal drug possession, you may be able to ask the court to modify custody based on these new facts. Similarly, if the original divorce judgment required you to pay $2000 in child and spousal support, but you recently got laid off from your job, you can file a motion to temporarily modify support schedules.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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Michael Anderson

About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.

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