Divorcing spouses who take their cases to court generally have the right to appeal a decision that they don’t like, although appellate courts usually give trial judges much discretion in weighing the facts and applying the law in each case. Appellate also operate under strict deadlines that can deprive you of your chance to obtain a new decision changed if you don’t seek a second opinion soon enough. California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently considered a case involving those time limits.
Husband and Wife separated in January 2009, just 10 months into their marriage. The spouses submitted, and the trial court entered, a stipulated judgment setting forth how they would divide their property and handle other issues. Husband was awarded all of the spouses’ community property and debt and was to pay Wife $50,000 for her share of the assets. Once that payment was made, Husband was no longer required to pay Wife spousal support. The spouses acknowledged that they were resolving the issues “without a full and complete assessment of the value of the property.”
Wife went back to court in 2012 and asked a judge to set aside the judgment stating that she was under duress at the time that she agreed to the terms of the judgment. Wife also asserted that Husband failed to make certain legally required financial disclosures before the agreement was signed and the judgment was entered. The trial court held a hearing on the request and issued a decision denying the motion to set aside the previous judgment later the same day.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said Wife waited too long to ask the court to weigh in on the matter. State law requires a person appealing a decision in a divorce case to file the appeal within 60 days from being served with the judgment that the person wants the appeals court to consider. Although that deadline may be extended in cases involving post-trial motions, the Court said the “outside limit” of such an extension is 180 days. “If the appeal is untimely, this court has no jurisdiction to consider it, and it must be dismissed,” the Court said.
In this case, Wife filed her appeal some 10 months after the trial judge issued their ruling. As a result, the Court said the appeal must be dismissed as untimely.
If you’re considering a divorce in California or facing property division issues after a divorce, it is imperative that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced family law attorney. A seasoned attorney can help you weigh all of your options, including cost-effective alternatives to traditional litigation like mediation and collaborative divorce. With offices throughout the Bay Area, divorce lawyer Lorna Jaynes provides innovative legal tools to resolve family law disputes without the bitterness and acrimony engendered by the adversarial process.
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