Is a Final Judgment Really Final?
When a judge has entered the final judgment in your divorce case, in most instances, you are officially divorced. One thought you might have is “at least that is over”—but is it really over?
Unfortunately, maybe not. You may be involved in ongoing litigation even after you are divorced. If you or your former spouse are not happy with the outcome of the case, there may be remedies available for to both of you to challenge or correct the final judgment. In addition, if in the future your ex is not complying with the final judgment, you may have to return to court and request that the court intervene to compel your ex-spouse’s compliance with the order. On the other hand, if in the future yours or your ex’s circumstances change, you may want to return to court and seek an adjustment of certain elements of the final judgment to provide for your changing needs, your children’s changing needs or another change in circumstances that supports a modification of the matter.
If you are faced with these issues, you should act quickly to assess your rights as some forms of relief have hard deadlines that must be met, and depending on whether you are seeking to correct, enforce or modify a final judgment, you should hire an attorney with experience to handle your case.
There are very limited ways to challenge an order or judgment. An appeal is a challenge to a final order or judgment that a judge has issued in a case, and it is intended to correct judicial error rather than attorney error. The time that you have to file a notice of appeal is limited, and failure to file within the required time period can prevent you from making an appellate claim. Successfully appealing a case can be difficult and complex because of the presumptions of correctness relative to judicial action, the specific appellate rules that are in place and an Appellant’s burden on appeal.
Some valid reasons you may have to file an appeal:
✓ The order or judgment entered by the Court is not supported by the evidence. It is not enough that you disagree with the Court’s ruling or whether the Court believed one witness over another. You must show that there was a lack of competent substantial evidence on a material issue before the Court.
✓ The Court made an error in ruling on an issue – errors such as admitting evidence, denying a motion to continue a trial, permitting a witness to testify, etc. Not only must you show that the Court erred, but you must show that the error effected the outcome of the case, that you did not cause the error and that you preserved your right to raise the issue.
✓ The judge misunderstood or misapplied the law. Sometimes, the judge makes a factual determination, and simply fails to apply the correct law. If you can show error on this issue, you may be successful on appeal.
Given the complexity, time limitations and particular requirements for appeals and the legal ramifications of seeking modification of judgments, it is extremely important to hire an attorney with appellate experience to handle your case. The attorneys at Nicole L. Goetz, P.L. have experience with these issues and can assist you and or your attorney throughout the entire process. We also assist trial counsel to prepare for a possible appeal at the time of trial. To schedule a confidential consultation and receive more information about your options, please contact our family law office in Naples, Florida at 239-325-5030.