Michigan Divorce Decrees: Can they be Appealed or Modified?

So your divorce has been finalized and for one reason or another you are dissatisfied with the outcome. Unfortunately this happens. But what can be done? Are you stuck with this outcome forever? Perhaps not. Under some circumstances a divorced spouse can appeal or modify their final divorce judgment. This article provides a brief overview of how appeals and modifications in divorce cases generally operate, but it is important to understand that each divorce is unique and that for case specific information you must consult with a local divorce attorney.

Appealing a Divorce Decree

After a family law judge delivers the final judgment in a divorce case both spouses legally have the right to appeal the trial court judge's decision to a higher court for review. In order to appeal a final divorce judgment, a spouse must file an appellate brief arguing that the trial court incorrectly applied the law in some way and that therefore the resulting divorce judgement is not valid. While divorcing spouses technically have the ability to appeal a divorce judgment it is important to note that it is unusual for an appellate judge to overturn a trial court judge's decision when it comes to divorce judgements. Additionally, be aware that a settlement agreement which both parties agreed to can not be appealed.

Modifying a Divorce Decree

While appealing a divorce decree is generally not very productive, dissatisfied spouses often have better luck when they ask the trial court to modify their divorce decree instead. In Michigan, post-divorce judgment modifications can be considered under a variety of different circumstances but are most commonly filed when there is a change in circumstances concerning:

  • Child custody,

  • Child support,

  • Parenting time, and

  • Spousal support.

Post-judgement divorce modifications in Michigan can be achieved in two different ways; by agreement or by petitioning the court. If divorced spouses mutually agree to modify portions of their judgment the court will generally allow them to sign a new agreement incorporating the desired modifications and present that modified judgment to the court for approval. However, if only one party wants to modify a final judgment or order that party can still petition the court to modify the order by filing a "motion to modify". When this happens, the court will conduct a hearing and if enough substantial change has occurred to warrant a modification the court will issue a revised judgment.

Additionally, a court may modify the property division aspect of a divorce judgment if the parties agree or if the petitioning spouse can show that the other spouse fraudulently hid assets during the couple's divorce.

Furthermore, the court may be willing to modify the spousal support provision of a divorce decree upon receiving evidence that the receiving spouse got remarried or that the paying spouse experienced a significant change in income.

Do You Need Legal Advice?

If you live in Michigan and are interested in appealing or modifying a divorce decree contact family law attorney Michael A. Robbins today. Our firm handles a wide variety of family law issues in the Tri-County area of Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties and throughout Michigan as well. Our Bloomfield office can be reached at (248) 646-7980.