The Divorce Appeals Process: learn about the steps in filing a New Jersey divorce appeal; about the Appellate Court; and how long the Appellate Court’s decision might take.
If your attorney decides that you have appropriate grounds for a divorce appeal, your appeal must conform very precisely to complex court rules. We encourage you to read through the following information carefully and jot down any questions or concerns that come to mind.
Steps in Filing a New Jersey Divorce Appeal
These are the basic steps you need to follow to appeal a New Jersey divorce judgment. Important note: this description is simplified. We strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney experienced in divorce appeals before filing. Depending on your case, there may be additional steps:
- Within 45 days following the entry of a final judgment, file a notice of appeal and a request for the trial court transcript with the appellate court. The notice of appeal must include an up-to-date Case Information Statement and copy of the judgment or order. You will also need to include a deposit of either the entire estimated cost of the transcript or $500 for each full or partial day of the trial or hearing. The court reporter or court clerk will send one copy of the transcript to you and file one copy with the court.
- File a copy of the notice and supporting documents with the trial court, and mail a copy to the trial judge. If a written trial court opinion, including findings of fact and conclusions of law, has not already been filed and mailed to the parties, the judge has 15 days after receiving the notice of appeal to do this. If there is a written opinion already, the judge can use the 15 day period to file and mail a clarification.
- Serve copies of the notice and supporting documents on your former spouse. Your former spouse will be the respondent and will have 15 days after service to file an up-to-date Case Information Statement.
- Within 30 days after filing the notice, deposit $300 for costs with the clerk of the appellate court and notify respondent that you have made this deposit.
- Within 10 days after the court reporter files the transcript with the court and sends you a copy, make four additional copies, file three with the court, and serve one on respondent.
- Within 45 days after receiving the transcript, file five copies of an appellate brief and appendix with the court, serve two copies on respondent; keep a copy for yourself and a copy for your attorney. The respondent then has 30 days to file a response brief. New Jersey courts limit initial briefs (not including cross-appeals) to 65 pages and reply briefs to 20 pages. In addition to the brief itself, however, the appeal must include an appendix containing all relevant documents in the case, compiled in the exact form dictated by the court rules.
- You have 10 days to file a reply to a response brief. If the response includes a cross-appeal, you have 30 days, and the respondent/cross-appellant then has 10 days to file a reply.
- If you want to request oral argument, you have 14 days after service of respondent’s brief to do so.
The Appellate Court
Unlike the trial court, the appellate court does not hear live testimony or examine new evidence. When different versions of facts have been presented at trial, the appellate court will defer to the trial court’s discretionary judgment regarding which version to believe based on the amount and the quality of all the evidence and testimony in the case. The appellate court will overturn the trial court’s judgment only if the court abused its discretion by reaching a decision that was completely unsupported by evidence or was contrary to applicable law. Abuse of discretion is difficult to establish, but not impossible.
The Appellate Court Decision
When all paperwork is complete and successfully submitted, a panel of two or three judges will review your briefs and all supporting documents. Sometimes the court will ask for oral arguments from the attorneys. The appellate court has the power to reverse a trial court’s decision or direct the court to take further action, such as making additional findings of fact or conducting a new trial or a hearing on a specific issue. In most cases, however, the appellate court simply affirms the decision.
Divorce appeals rarely move quickly. Although courts try to expedite appeals involving urgent issues, such as child custody determinations, it will usually be at least a year before you receive a decision on your appeal.