Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

What options are available after losing in the trial court?

Salt Lake City residents often disagree with one another, including on some very important issues. These disagreements are perfectly normal, particularly when it comes to the legal system, where disagreements on legal issues is not only frequent between different parties, but between different judges as well.

Fortunately, these disagreements among judges can work to the advantage of Salt Lake City residents in a divorce case. When individuals receive an unfavorable decision from a trial court judge, they have the ability to file an appeal of that decision to have a higher court reexamine the divorce legal issues.

For instance, this blog recently has discussed the division of marital debt and marital property in a divorce. There can be strong disagreements between the parties as to the division of property and debt, including contested issues over what qualifies as marital property or debt, and what the value of particular assets may be. When the trial court judge rules against a party on a particular issue, that party may be able to appeal the decision, in which case an appellate court has the power to reverse the trial judge's ruling and make the correct ruling.

However, it is important to understand that cases heard on appeal do not proceed in the same fashion as cases in the district court. The trial court, as the name implies, will typically hold a trial where the parties are able to present testimony from witnesses and other evidence. The appellate court will not conduct a new trial, as it simply reviews the record that was made at the trial court. Frequently, appellate courts are called upon to review alleged errors of law that were made by the trial court.

Ultimately, parties hope to obtain a favorable decision in the trial court. But when they do not, they should understand their right to appeal, as well as the likelihood of success in that appeal and other issues that bear on whether they should exercise their right and file an appeal.

Source: Utah Courts, "Appeals," accessed on Dec. 5, 2015

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