An appeal is not a new trial. Rather, it is a process designed to review the trial court’s handling of a divorce case to ensure it complied with the law. A qualified Fox Point appeals attorney can guide you through this process. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., our family law team represent divorce litigants who believe their judge made a legal error that resulted in the wrong outcome of their case.
What Happens When You Appeal a Fox Point Divorce Judgment?
In Wisconsin, divorce cases are heard by circuit courts, which are trial courts. Fox Point is part of Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Appeals from this court are heard by the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin. This is an intermediate appellate court divided into four districts. Appeals from the Milwaukee Circuit Court are heard by the First District. Above the Court of Appeals is the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is the state’s highest judicial authority.
The appeals process itself has a number of stages:
- Filing a Notice of Appeal. This is what starts the appeals process. The party that objects to the Circuit Court’s ruling must file a Notice with the First District containing basic information about the appeal, such as the name of the case and a description of the judgment being appealed. This notice must typically be filed within 90 days of the Circuit Court entering its judgment or order.
- Request a Transcript. Within 14 days of filing a Notice of Appeal, the appealing party must inform the Court of Appeals if they will order a transcript of the trial proceedings before the Circuit Court. This is important since the Court of Appeals cannot receive or consider new evidence. Instead, they will look at the transcript of the proceedings before the Circuit Court.
- Filing the Record on Appeal. The clerk of the Circuit Court will prepare and send the Court of Appeals a Record on Appeal, which is basically a compilation of the original documents filed with the Circuit Court in a divorce case.
- Filing Briefs. Each side in the divorce case files a brief explaining their legal arguments, such as why the circuit court’s decision was correct or incorrect. Most appeals are decided based on these briefs. The briefs are usually filed with an Appendix that contains references to the Record on Appeal.
- Oral Arguments. In some cases, the Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments from the parties. This gives the judges of the appellate court an opportunity to question the parties regarding the arguments made in their respective briefs.
- Decision. After considering the briefs–and oral arguments, where applicable–a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals will issue its decision in the form of an opinion. If the appellate court agreed with the circuit court’s handling of the case, it will issue an opinion affirming the decision. Otherwise, the appellate court may reverse the trial court’s ruling or remand the issue to the trial court for additional findings and new orders.
Can I Appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court?
If a party disagrees with the decision of the Court of Appeals, they can ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear the case. Unlike the Court of Appeals, however, the Supreme Court has the discretion to determine which divorce appeals it will or will not hear. And in most cases, the Supreme Court will not hear an appeal unless it involves a unique or exceptional question of law or policy, or if there is a conflict between the various district appellate courts that needs to be resolved.
The appeals process is not quick. On average, it can take upwards of a year from the time a Notice of Appeal is filed to when the First District issues an opinion. This period may be longer if a case raises especially complex issues and oral argument is held. And even if the appealing party is successful, that in turn usually means a return to the circuit court for further proceedings, which may take several additional months to complete.