West Bend Appeals Attorneys

Many Wisconsin divorce cases end up in litigation. This can be a long and emotionally draining process for the parties involved. And once the judge renders a final decision, it is possible that one–and sometimes both–sides are dissatisfied with the outcome.

There are legal procedures in place to seek review of a Wisconsin divorce judgment. Our qualified West Bend appeals attorneys can guide you through this process. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we represent individuals who believe that a legal issue arising from their divorce was not properly decided by the original judge. We can sit down, review your case, and advise you of your options for seeking further review of such decisions.

What Is an Appeal?

Most divorce cases in Wisconsin do not require a trial. The overwhelming majority are settled by the parties, with a final agreement submitted to a judge for approval. But in those small number of cases where the parties cannot resolve their outstanding issues, a judge will hear the evidence and render a decision on any unresolved issues, such as division of marital property and spousal support, based on the law. (To be clear, divorce cases in Wisconsin are decided by judges and not juries.)

If either party disagrees with the judge’s decision, they can file an appeal. Wisconsin has a three-tier court system for handling cases. At the lowest level are the district courts. These are the courts that actually conduct divorce trials.

The second tier is the Court of Appeals. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals consists of 16 judges who hear cases in one of four districts. Each county is assigned to a particular district. For example, if your divorce case was heard in Washington County (West Bend), your appeal would be heard by the District II Court of Appeals in Waukesha.

The appeal itself is not a new trial. The Court of Appeals will not hear any new testimony or receive any additional evidence. Instead, the appellate court’s role is to review the record of the trial and determine if the trial judge made any legal errors that may have unfairly affected the outcome of the case.

The appeals process therefore is mostly a matter of filing paperwork. This includes written briefs filed by each party. In some cases, the Court of Appeals may request oral argument. Again, this is not the same thing as a trial. In an oral argument, the attorneys for each side are given a brief opportunity to present their cases to a panel of appellate judges and answer any questions they might have. After considering any briefs and oral arguments, the panel will then render a decision on the appeal. The panel may simply affirm the trial court’s decision or it may decide there was some legal error justifying a new trial or some other form of relief.

After the Court of Appeals issues its decision, either side may attempt to pursue further relief with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Unlike proceedings in the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court must first grant permission before it will hear a case. This involves filing a Petition for Review. The Supreme Court typically only grants such petitions in the following circumstances:

  • The case deals with a significant question of law.
  • The case involves a new or changed public policy.
  • The case involves a conflict between the lower courts on how to apply the law.

In short, you generally cannot expect the Supreme Court to consider your divorce appeal unless one of these three circumstances apply. The Supreme Court will not correct “routine” legal errors in a divorce case. That is considered the proper function of the Court of Appeals.

Contact Karp & Iancu Today

The appeals process is not quick. According to the most recent official statistics from Wisconsin’s judiciary, the District II Court of Appeals takes an average of 352 days–nearly a full year–to decide an appeal. And in cases that require oral arguments, that average goes up to 536 days, or roughly 18 months.

So it is important to carefully consider whether an appeal is in the best interests of you and your family. Speaking with an experienced West Bend appeals attorney should always be your first step. The team at Karp & Iancu, S.C., can help you review what happened during your divorce trial, identify any potential avenues for appeal, or alternatively how to defend against an appeal filed by your ex. Contact us today at (414) 453-0800 to schedule an initial consultation.