Court systems around the United States are typically organized in tiers. Most state-level cases—including divorce and matters of family law—begin in circuit court in the county in which the case was filed. From there, appeals are usually brought before an appellate court, typically divided into districts that cover the state in question. Further appeals can be taken before the state Supreme Court, and potentially the United States Supreme Court, particularly if several states have issued contradictory Supreme Court decisions.
Appealing a trial court’s decision can be a lengthy and expensive process. It is also one that often misunderstood by the average person. An appeal is not a do-over. Additionally, you cannot file an appeal solely on the basis that you are unhappy with the trial court’s ruling. In most cases, an appeal is a careful review of the trial court’s process and analysis, not an opportunity for the court to retry your case, though that is a possible outcome.
Reasons for an Appeal
In order to be successful, your appeal must address some type of mistake or procedural error that occurred during the initial proceedings. You could, for example, appeal based on the contention that the trial judge misinterpreted a law pertaining to your case, and, as a result, ruled in favor of the other party. Similarly, you could also contend that the trial court made an error in understanding the facts as they were presented. Finally, your appeal could be on the basis of discretionary error on the part of the judge.
Divorce law, in particular, provides trial judges wide discretion when making rulings. Thus, discretionary error is a common reason for appeal. However, appellate courts tend to recognize that the trial judge is usually in the best position to analyze the situation at hand and the evidence presented. As such, a trial judge’s discretion is typically given strong deference by an appeals court.
At Least Two Out of Three
It is important to keep in mind that appellate courts in Illinois utilize a panel of three judges when hearing a case. This means that to win your appeal, you must convince at least two judges that the trial judge made a mistake. A three-judge panel is intended to prevent appeals cases from being decided solely on the opinion of one individual. If two judges agree on the ruling, it is more likely to be the right decision.
If your divorce has recently been finalized and you believe that an error was made by the court, you only have a short time to act. Contact an experienced Orland Park divorce lawyer right away to discuss your options. Call Kezy & Associates today at 708-518-8200 for a free consultation.