Like everyone and everything in life, the judicial system isn’t perfect. Mistakes are made. Sometimes, these mistakes can result in an improper verdict or decision. Divorce proceedings are no different. Fortunately, our judicial system provides individuals with the opportunity to appeal certain rulings or decisions believed to be wrongly decided. But what all can be appealed in divorce proceedings? Can a property division be appealed? Are there any limitations? In this blog, we look to provide some answers to these questions, as well as provide some considerations for you to keep in mind when deciding whether to appeal.
In Indiana, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction in all appeals from final judgments.1 A final judgment is one that disposes of all the claims as to all the parties.2 Aside from specific situations, the general rule is that you can only appeal what is known as a “final order.” Pursuant to Indiana statutory code, a divorce decree, which includes the property division, is final when entered, subject to the right of appeal.3 The Court of Appeals has the power to either affirm, vacate, modify, or reverse a trial court’s property division.
Next, one should consider the scope of the appellate court’s review of a property division in Indiana. In general, scope of review means that Indiana trial courts have broad discretion in valuing and dividing marital property. Thus, appellate courts will only set aside a property division if the trial court abused that discretion. An abuse of discretion occurs when the decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances of the case. There are many circumstances in which a trial court can abuse its discretion in dividing a marital estate. For example, a trial court’s valuation of certain marital property can be an abuse of discretion if there is no evidence to support the valuation.4
Deciding whether to appeal a trial court’s property division is ultimately a decision only you can make. However, there are certain considerations that you should keep in mind in deciding whether to take your case to the appellate courts. First, one thing to keep in mind in making your decision is the timing of filing an appeal. In order to preserve your right to appeal, the general rule is that you must file your notice of appeal within 30 days of the court’s entry of your dissolution decree. Another consideration when deciding whether to appeal is the alleged errors committed in the proceeding. For example, in some circumstances, there may be mistakes made during the proceedings that were relatively small mistakes that don’t affect the substance of the decision. On the other hand, there may be mistakes, such as evidentiary mistakes, that make the alleged errors a much bigger deal, increasing your likelihood of success.
The above information is general in nature, and there are exceptions to almost every rule. Appellate practice is extremely technical. If you believe the court wrongly decided your dissolution matter, or there were issues in your trial, obtaining skilled counsel is key to navigating the complex waters of appeals. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle all types of appeals, be it civil or criminal, throughout Indiana. This blog is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.