What Are My Options?
After a divorce is finalized, it is not uncommon for one or both parties to be dissatisfied with the outcome. Divorce is a complicated, emotional process, and while the courts do their best to reach a fair resolution, this does not always happen. Whether you feel that your divorce settlement is unfair, your judgment was affected by an issue of fraud or other wrongdoing, or there was a legal error made during your case, you do have options.
Legal options for amending or overturning your divorce settlement include:
- Post-divorce modifications
- Filling a motion to vacate or set aside
- Family law appeals
Not all of these options will be available for every case. The circumstances of your case will determine which legal paths are open to you. Before proceeding, you should speak with a trusted lawyer to determine what type of legal remedies are available to you and the best course of action for your situation.
Appealing a Divorce Ruling
Suppose you believe that the outcome of your divorce case was impacted by a judge’s error, misapplication of the law, or another issue that resulted in an unfair ruling. In that case, you may be able to appeal your case in the appellate court. The appellate court will review the case to determine if a legal mistake was made and whether the error affected the final judgment in the case.
It is important to remember that appealing your case is not the same as getting a new trial. The appeals process is not an opportunity to renegotiate your divorce settlement, nor is it an opportunity to get a “second opinion.”
In California, you must file an appeal within a certain time frame. If you decide to appeal your divorce case (or other family law matter), you will file as an unlimited civil case. Your case will be heard in one of the six California Courts of Appeals. For cases in the Newport Beach area and Orange County, your case will be heard by the 4th District Court of Appeal.
Appealing a divorce judgment should not be taken lightly. If you think you have grounds for an appeal, you should consult with an experienced lawyer before filing with the courts.
Filing a Motion to Vacate or a Motion to Set Aside
As an alternative to the appeals process, you may be able to request the courts vacate or set aside your judgment. When asking the courts to set aside or vacate a family law order, you are essentially asking them to cancel or undo the original order. If successful, after a motion to vacate or set aside is approved, you will have to then renegotiate or relitigate the issue. It is important to remember that there are only a few legally valid reasons to vacate or set aside a family law order. If unsuccessful, you may be in a position where you are then required to pay the other party’s legal fees.
Because of the complicated nature of requesting an order or judgment be set aside or vacated, it is very important that you seek legal counsel from an experienced lawyer before filing your request.
Legal reasons for vacating or setting aside a family law judgment include:
- An order was made against you because of your own “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect”
- You were not able to file a response or act appropriately because you did not receive notice of the summons/petition in time
- The judgment against you was impacted by “fraud, perjury, duress, mental incapacity, mistake, or a party failed to comply with disclosure requirements”
To learn more about requesting a family law order be set aside or vacated, review the CA Courts’ website here.
Petitioning for Post-Divorce Modifications
If you are in a situation where your original divorce settlement is no longer adequate or5, you may have the option to petition the courts for a post-divorce modification. Modifications can be sought if you or your former spouse have experienced a material change in circumstances.
Examples of situations that might qualify for a post-divorce modification include:
- Loss or change in employment
- Loss or change in income
- Disability or a significant health issue
Common post-divorce modifications include those for spousal support, child custody, and child support. If you believe you have grounds for a post-divorce modification, you should reach out to an experienced lawyer. When seeking an amendment to your original order, you will have to prove to the courts that your change in circumstances is not only significant but lasting and thereby warrants the modification. This can be a complicated process, and the support of an attorney can be invaluable.
If you are dissatisfied with your divorce settlement, contact our law firm to discuss your case with an experienced attorney. We can help you determine which legal options are available to you.