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Finding common ground in a divorce can be challenging. If an agreement cannot be reached out of court, the next step is to go to trial. But what can you do if you do not agree with the judge’s ruling after the trial? Do you have any recourse?

In divorce trials, there is no jury, so it is the judge who decides what facts or evidence to believe. After doing so, the judge applies the law to those facts to make rulings. Often the judge’s ruling will control, but there may be limited circumstances, depending upon the facts and circumstances in your case, when you could request that the ruling be changed:

  1. A Motion for Reconsideration gives the judge an opportunity to rethink and make changes to the rulings he or she rendered. If the judge made an inadvertent error, or overlooked evidence that, if considered, would have changed the decision, the judge might modify his or her rulings based on such a motion. However, if there was any evidence at the trial that supports the judge’s rulings, and the law was applied correctly, this type of motion is unlikely to lead to the judge changing his or her initial ruling.
  1. A Motion for New Trial is also directed to the judge who made the rulings in your case, and is a request for a second trial on one or more of the issues already presented. This type of request can be used for the same reasons as a Motion for Reconsideration. It can also be used in the following circumstances:
  • You have discovered information after the trial which could change the outcome, but which you could not have known at the time of trial.
  • There has been misconduct by one of the litigants.
  • One party was deprived of a fair trial.
  • The judge made an error in accepting or denying the admission of evidence.
  1. An Appeal of your judge’s decision is made to a separate Court of Appeals. This court will review what the judge in your case did. If the Court of Appeals is convinced an error was made, it will either overturn the judge’s decision or send the case back to the judge in the previous court with instructions on how the mistake should be corrected. If the evidence presented at trial supports the court’s factual findings, the appellate court will likely not disturb the judge’s ruling. On the other hand, if the judge made an error in applying the law, there is a greater likelihood of obtaining relief from the appellate court. If the Court of Appeals does not grant you the relief you seek, you then have the option of appealing your case to the Arizona Supreme Court. However, unlike the Court of Appeals, the Arizona Supreme Court does not have to accept for review all cases that come before it, and generally only takes those cases that it deems to be of “statewide importance,” which are very few.

None of these post-decision requests allow you to add new evidence to your case (except in the limited circumstances discussed above). There may be other types of post-decision motions will be helpful, but the facts and circumstances of each case are different. .

If you have concerns about the outcome of your divorce trial, it is best to consult with your attorney before moving forward with any such motion or appeal. Strict time limit deadlines may apply, and attorneys’ fees related to such actions can be significant. You must weigh the cost of taking such action against the likelihood of obtaining the outcome you seek.

For more information, contact us at Hallier Stearns PLC.