Should I Appeal the Court’s Custody, Child Support, or Alimony Decision?

In divorce cases, judges and commissioners make decisions about custody, child support, and alimony, among other things. If you do not like one of these decisions, you should act fast to consider an appeal or objection.

What Are Appeals and Objections?

Appeals and objections are the basic avenues for disputing judicial decisions or orders that you do not like. Whether you use an objection or an appeal depends on which judicial officer made the decision and in what context. Generally, you may object to a commissioner’s recommendation and appeal a final judgment entered by a judge.

Objecting to a Commissioner’s Recommendation Utah courts employ commissioners to help make quick recommendations for orders in family law cases. A commissioner’s recommendation is made based on written affidavits/declarations and short arguments. The advantage to having commissioner’s make recommendations is that hearings are quicker and more economical. The disadvantage is that in a commissioner hearing, you will not have much of a chance to testify fully. Also, you cannot cross-examine the opposing party.

Fortunately, if you disagree with the commissioner’s recommendation, you can object. Once you object, the judge will need to decide the issues to which you have objected. And, if the commissioner’s recommendation was in regards to a protective order, custody, or failure to obey a court order, you can insist on having an evidentiary hearing where you can testify and cross-examine adverse witnesses. Even if your issue does not qualify for an evidentiary hearing before the judge, you will at least have the opportunity to have the judge review the matter with fresh eyes.

Appealing a Judge’s Final Ruling

If a judge has entered a final ruling in your case, you have the right to appeal. If a protective order is involved with your divorce, you will need to appeal that separately. Protective orders are their own cases. Contempt orders are also their own cases. Do not wait for the divorce case to conclude before looking at whether to appeal a contempt ruling or protective order.

An appeal begins with you filing a notice of appeal and going through the appellate process. If you are appealing the decision of a district court judge, your appeal will be considered by either the Utah Supreme Court or the Utah Court of Appeals.

Appeal Court’s Decision

Please note that an appealing to an appellate court will not involve a new trial before the appellate court or the opportunity to tell the appellate court things that you did not tell the trial court. The role of the appellate court is to put itself in the trial court’s shoes and determine whether the trial judge made the correct decisions. If the judge misinterpreted law, the appellate court won’t hesitate to impose its view on the trial judge. However, the appellate court will be leery of second-guessing the judge on factual matters.

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