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Appealing a Divorce Decree in Arizona

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Appealing a Divorce Decree

In Arizona, a divorce decree becomes final when it is signed by the judge and filed with the court clerk. Once finalized, the terms of the decree, including asset division, child custody, and support arrangements, are legally binding. However, errors in the application of the law or miscalculations can justify an appeal.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 12-2101, appeals must typically be filed within 30 days of the decree’s entry.

At Colburn Hintze Maletta, our experienced attorneys are dedicated to helping you through the divorce appeal process in Arizona. We offer personalized guidance, from filing the notice of appeal to representing you in court. Our team ensures that all legal procedures are properly followed, increasing your chances of a successful outcome. Trust CHM to support your best interests throughout the entire appeal process.


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Appealing a Divorce Decree

What are the Grounds For Appealing 

When appealing a divorce decree in Arizona, it is important to understand the specific grounds that the law recognizes as valid for an appeal.

Not every dissatisfaction with the court’s decision qualifies for an appeal.

The following are the recognized legal grounds for appealing a divorce decree under Arizona law:


Legal Errors

These occur when the court applies the law incorrectly during the trial. Legal errors can include misinterpretation of statutes, incorrect rulings on the admissibility of evidence, or improper instructions to the jury.

Example of Acceptable Appeal:

  • The judge misapplied the law regarding the division of marital property, leading to an unfair distribution.
  • The court failed to consider certain financial assets as community property, affecting the final settlement.

Example of Unacceptable Appeal:

  • Disagreement with the judge’s decision on spousal support amount without evidence of a legal error.
  • Belief that the child custody arrangement is unfair, without showing that the judge made a legal error.


Procedural Issues

These involve violations of procedural rules or due process during the trial. Procedural issues can include the denial of the right to present evidence, improper conduct by the court, or failure to follow established court procedures.

Example of Acceptable Appeal:

  • One party was not given the opportunity to present critical evidence due to the court’s procedural error.
  • The judge refused to hear testimony from a key witness, impacting the case’s outcome.

Example of Unacceptable Appeal:

  • Complaints about the overall length of the trial or dissatisfaction with the judge’s demeanor, without showing a procedural violation that affected the outcome.


New Evidence

Newly discovered evidence that was not available during the original trial and could significantly impact the case’s outcome may be grounds for an appeal. This evidence must be genuinely new and not something that could have been discovered with reasonable diligence before the trial.

Example of Acceptable Appeal:

  • Discovery of hidden assets or bank accounts that were not disclosed during the original trial.
  • New medical evidence affecting child custody arrangements that was not available during the trial.

Example of Unacceptable Appeal:

  • Attempting to introduce evidence that was known but not presented during the trial due to strategic reasons.
  • Bringing forward information that is not directly relevant to the core issues of the case.



Misconduct by any party involved in the trial, including attorneys or the judge, can be grounds for an appeal. This can involve unethical behavior, bias, or actions that undermine the fairness of the trial.

Example of Acceptable Appeal:

  • Evidence that the opposing attorney engaged in unethical conduct, such as presenting false information.
  • Proof that the judge had a conflict of interest or demonstrated clear bias against one party.

Example of Unacceptable Appeal:

  • Accusations of bias without concrete evidence to support the claim.
  • General dissatisfaction with the opposing attorney’s aggressive tactics during cross-examination.


Insufficient Evidence

If the decision made by the court is not supported by the evidence presented during the trial, it can be grounds for an appeal. This means the court’s findings are clearly against the weight of the evidence.

Example of Acceptable Appeal:

  • The court awarded sole custody to one parent without sufficient evidence to justify the decision, ignoring substantial evidence favoring joint custody.
  • The court’s financial settlement is significantly unbalanced due to the misinterpretation of presented evidence.

Example of Unacceptable Appeal:

  • Belief that the court should have given more weight to personal testimony over documented financial records.
  • Dissatisfaction with the court’s interpretation of evidence, without proving it was insufficient to support the ruling.

Understanding these grounds helps in determining whether pursuing an appeal is warranted.

If you are unsure if your case would qualify for an appeal, consult with an experienced family law attorney to evaluate the specific circumstances and develop a strategic approach to the appeal process.

How Does The Appeal Process Work 

Appealing a divorce decree in Arizona involves a detailed legal procedure that must be carefully followed to ensure your appeal is considered by the court. Understanding each step in the process can help you handle it more effectively and improve your chances of a successful outcome.


Filing a Notice of Appeal

The first step in the appeal process is filing a notice of appeal with the court that issued the original divorce decree. This notice must be filed within a strict timeframe, typically within 30 days of the decree’s entry, as stipulated by Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 12-2101.

  • Prepare the Notice: The notice must include specific information such as the case number, the names of the parties involved, and a statement indicating the intent to appeal.
  • File the Notice: Submit the notice to the court clerk and ensure it is filed within the required timeframe to avoid dismissal of the appeal.
  • Serve the Notice: Serve a copy of the notice to the opposing party, ensuring they are formally informed of the appeal.


Preparing the Appellate Brief

The appellate brief is an important document in the appeal process. It outlines the errors made during the trial and presents the legal arguments for why the original decision should be reversed or modified.

  • Compile the Record: Gather all relevant documents, transcripts, and evidence from the original trial to include in the appellate record.
  • Draft the Brief: The brief must clearly articulate the legal errors or procedural issues and cite relevant laws and precedents supporting your arguments.
  • Submit the Brief: File the completed brief with the appellate court and serve a copy to the opposing party.


Oral Arguments

In some cases, the appellate court may schedule a hearing for oral arguments. This provides an opportunity for both parties to present their case and answer questions from the judges.

  • Prepare for the Hearing: Review the appellate brief thoroughly and prepare to address potential questions from the judges.
  • Present Arguments: During the hearing, present a concise and compelling argument, focusing on the key issues raised in the appeal.
  • Respond to Questions: Be prepared to respond to questions from the judges, clarifying any points and reinforcing your arguments.


Waiting for the Decision

After the oral arguments, the appellate court will review the case and issue a decision. This process can take several months, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule.

  • Review the Decision: Once the court issues its decision, review it carefully to understand the outcome and any further actions required.
  • Next Steps: If the appeal is successful, the case may be remanded for further proceedings or the original decree may be modified. If the appeal is denied, further legal options, such as appealing to a higher court, may be considered.

Can You Go Through the Appeal Process Without a Lawyer 

While going through the appeal process without a lawyer is possible, it is generally not advisable due to the complexity and high stakes involved. The appeal process requires a thorough understanding of legal principles, procedural rules, and the ability to craft persuasive legal arguments.

Without the expertise of a lawyer, you risk missing details that could jeopardize your case. Hiring an experienced family law attorney can provide the guidance and support necessary to increase your chances of a successful appeal.

If you choose to self-represent, there are resources available, such as legal aid organizations and online guides, to help you through the process.

Is Appealing a Divorce Decree The Same Thing as Appealing a Divorce Settlement 

Appealing a divorce decree is not the same as appealing a divorce settlement. A divorce decree is the final judgment made by the family court after a trial, and appealing this decree involves challenging the lower court’s decision based on errors of fact or law. This process requires filing a notice of appeal within 30 days of the divorce judgment and presenting your case to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

In contrast, a divorce settlement is an agreement reached between the parties, often through negotiation or mediation, and then approved by the court.

This settlement outlines the terms of the divorce, including asset division, child custody, and spousal support. Reaching a settlement typically involves both parties, their attorneys, and sometimes a mediator, working together to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.


Examples of Common Reasons to Challenge a Divorce Settlement

Challenging a divorce settlement focuses on the fairness of the agreement and may be based on several grounds:

  • Fraud: One party may have concealed assets or provided false information during the negotiation process.
  • Coercion: If one party was pressured or forced into agreeing to the settlement terms under duress.
  • Mistake: Both parties made a mutual mistake regarding important facts that significantly impact the settlement.
  • Significant Change in Circumstances: After the settlement, a substantial change in circumstances, such as a drastic change in financial status or health, can render the original agreement unfair.

Consulting with experienced Arizona divorce attorneys can help you determine the best approach for your specific situation, whether you are dealing with an unfair divorce settlement or seeking to correct errors in the final divorce decision.

Divorce Appeal FAQ


1. What is the difference between an appeal and a modification in a divorce case?

An appeal challenges the trial court’s decision based on errors of fact or law, whereas a modification seeks to change the terms of a divorce order due to significant changes in circumstances, such as a change in income or relocation.


2. How long does the Arizona divorce appeal process take?

The duration of the Arizona divorce appeal process varies, but it generally takes several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule.


3. Can I appeal the trial court’s decision if I missed the 30-day deadline?

If you missed the 30-day deadline to file an appeal, you might be able to file a petition for an extension. However, this is only granted under exceptional circumstances and is at the discretion of the court.


4. What is the role of the Arizona Supreme Court in divorce appeals?

The Arizona Supreme Court reviews cases at its discretion, often involving significant legal questions or inconsistencies in the law. Most divorce appeals are first heard by the Arizona Court of Appeals.


5. Can I stop paying child support during the appeal process?

No, appealing the trial court’s decision does not suspend your obligations under the original divorce order, including child support. You must continue to comply with all terms until the appeals court issues a final decision.


6. What if I disagree with the appellate court’s decision?

If you disagree with the appellate court’s decision, you can petition for a review by the Arizona Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court has discretion over which cases it chooses to hear.


7. Can both parties appeal the divorce ruling?

Yes, both parties can file an appeal if they believe the trial court’s decision was incorrect. Each party must file a notice of appeal and follow the appropriate legal procedures.

Contact the Family Law Attorneys at CHM 

At Colburn Hintze Maletta, our experienced family law attorneys specialize in handling divorce appeals in Arizona. We approach each case with empathy and personalized attention, fully understanding the emotional challenges involved. Our team takes the time to comprehend your unique circumstances, ensuring our legal strategies are tailored to meet your specific needs.

By fostering strong attorney-client relationships based on trust and open communication, we ensure that you feel supported, valued, and empowered throughout the legal process. If you are considering appealing your divorce decree, contact the family law attorneys at CHM today. We are committed to helping you achieve a fair and favorable outcome in your divorce appeal.

Reach out to our law firm at (602) 825-2500  to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards securing your legal rights.


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