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Divorce Appeal: When the Law Is Misapplied in Your Illinois Divorce

Appeal – Lawyer carries a stack of 3 file folders. One folder has the label Appeal. Symbol for law, justice, judgement

In Illinois divorce cases, the judge’s ruling often makes one party unhappy, but if that party believes the law was misapplied, there are steps to take to start a divorce appeal. While it is normal for one spouse to feel unhappy with the ruling in a disputed divorce, there are instances when accepting the decision and moving on is not the best course of action. In Illinois, individuals in this situation have two options to consider.

Appeal – Lawyer carries a stack of 3 file folders. One folder has the label Appeal. Symbol for law, justice, judgement

File a Motion for Reconsideration

If the individual feels the court made the wrong ruling, and it should be reversed, he or she can file a motion for reconsideration. This is only possible if the individual, often with the help of a divorce attorney, can prove that the initial ruling was incorrect, such as if the ruling did not include all the evidence that impacts the decision. The party filing this motion must be able to prove that a mistake was made and that the mistake impacted the overall outcome of the case.

This particular motion requires one of three scenarios. A motion to reconsider is filed if the law was misapplied. It is also filed if changes in the law impact the potential outcome of the case. Finally, this tool is used when new evidence comes to light after the final ruling.

Divorce Appeal

A second option is to file a divorce appeal. This is an appeal to a superior court in the same jurisdiction. The goal in a divorce appeal is to get more details about what the law is and how it applies to that particular case. To file an appeal, the individual must act within 30 days of the final judgment of divorce. In cases involving children, parents can file an appeal as soon as the court issues a temporary ruling.

An appeal requires the court’s permission and can be quite costly. They also take a lot of time. The goal of the appeal is for the court to determine if the lower court made a mistake with the evidence they had. New evidence does not require an appeal, but rather a motion for reconsideration, because the appellate court will only look at the already presented evidence. For this reason, divorce lawyers are often hesitant to recommend a divorce appeal unless they feel their clients have a strong case.

Can You Appeal a Divorce Settlement?

Life’s circumstances can change after an original Illinois divorce decree is signed. Illinois law allows some areas of the agreement to be modified after it is finalized, even many years following the divorce. Understanding which areas can be modified and which cannot may help divorcees to adapt arrangements to new life conditions. There are a few things that can be changed when appealing a divorce settlement.

Parenting Responsibilities

One area that is changeable after a divorce decree is the allocation of parental responsibilities. As children grow and needs change, the parenting plan often needs to adjust to accommodate those changes.

Parenting plans are typically created with an attorney during the height of the divorce process. During this time, hurt feelings and anger can impact decision-making. As parents have the chance to cool down and re-evaluate the choices, they may find that unfair judgments were made, and they need to make some changes.

Parenting schedules may also need to be modified as work responsibilities and schedules change. A child’s opinion, especially as a child gets older, can impact some aspects of the custody arrangements as well. The courts will typically consider modifications as long as they are within the best interests of the child.

Spousal Maintenance Payments

Spousal maintenance payments are financial support paid from the higher-earning spouse to the other. Spousal maintenance is not intended to be life-long support. Instead, it is intended to help the lower-income earner get on his or her feet after divorce. If the receiving party remarries or makes no effort to become self-sufficient, the paying party can petition the court to review the arrangements to see if they need to be modified or discontinued.

Changes to Child Support Agreements

Finally, one area that can change after a divorce decree is finalized is the child support agreement. In 2017, Illinois child support laws changed from charging a percentage of the payer’s income to basing the payments on an income share. This sharing is based on the income of both parents and the parenting time each receives. Generally, the more parenting time a parent has, the less child support he or she must pay.

Child support is one area that actually changes fairly often because income can change and shift. If the parent who is paying child support has a significant increase or decrease in income, the child support order may be able to be adjusted. Either parent can petition the court to make this change. A family law attorney is an excellent resource for understanding when these changes are warranted.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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