Appealing a Divorce Order When There is Fraud or Mistake

When Bob Simms of Greenwich, Connecticut and his wife Donna divorced in 1979, Simms was ordered to pay alimony. This arrangement worked for several years before both parties sought to modify the order. Since then, the couple has fought all the way to Supreme Court three times.

Now, according to the Claims Journal, Simms has sued his ex-wife and her attorneys alleging fraud. Simms, an ex-NFL player and founder of Simms Capital Management Inc., alleged that Donna and her lawyers intentionally concealed an inheritance of nearly $360,000. Donna disagreed, stating that it was unclear whether she would inherit at that time and that $200,000 of the inheritance went to lawyers’ fees, with the rest spent on necessities. The court ruled for Donna and her lawyers in a five-to-one decision.

Some facts about appealing a divorce order include:

  • In most cases, a divorce order is final, even if a spouse thinks it is unfair.
  • The trial court is given broad discretion when awarding alimony and distributing property and can distribute assets in any manner it deems equitable, considering statutory factors such as the needs of the parties.
  • When circumstances change between the parties, for example, one spouse loses a job or gains an inheritance, this may provide grounds to seek a divorce modification. However, there are still cases where you can appeal a divorce.
  • When a judge makes a mistake of law or fact, or the other spouse acts fraudulently such as by purposefully concealing important financial information, it is often grounds for an appeal.

An appeal is not a new trial, but through appellate briefs and oral arguments, seasoned appellate lawyers can help you ask a higher court to review errors that occurred during the initial divorce proceeding. If you do not win on appeal, the divorce order is reaffirmed, although you may appeal to a higher court. If you do win your case, it is generally remanded back to the court for a new divorce trial.