Appeals in Minnesota Divorce Cases

Sometimes the Judges get it wrong.  Perhaps it’s a mistake based on the law or they got confused on some complex factual issue, either way you do have some options available.

MN Court Of Appeals

The MN Court of Appeals

Standard of Review

Depending on the issue there are different “standards of review” this is the legal phrase that is what the court must look at to see if they will or can overturn the district court order.  If your claim is that the Judge didn’t believe you, or that the other side lied, then  the MN court of appeals must use the “abuse of discretion” standard.  This is tough to win because the Court of Appeals give great deference to the district court.  The theory is that the District Judge looked at the witness, saw how they acted and reacted during cross-examination and the Court Of Appeals does not have that ability.

One important point to remember here is that the Court Of Appeals doesn’t listen to any new evidence, instead they read the transcript and look at the exhibits.  Filing an appeal does not automatically mean that you get a new trial, just that the Court Of Appeals will look at the case for mistakes.

Another standard of review is called a “de novo” standard.  This review means the Court of Appeals will look at the case “a new” or from a fresh perspective.  This is normally done if the district court applied the law wrong, such as applying the wrong legal standard on a modification of a custody case. Or getting the law wrong on a Alimony case.
What the de novo standard means to you is that you are much more likely to have your case overturned if you can manage to use a de novo standard.
Cost Of Appeals
Probably the biggest impediment to appealing a case in Minnesota is the cost.  Appeals are very complex and technical.  This is an area of the law that ANY mistake can result in getting the case thrown out and not heard by the Minnesota Court Of Appeals.  There are page requirements, font size, appendix issues, very , very strict timelines that must be followed.
As for the actual cost here is quick look at a typical divorce appeal:
  • $500  Filing Fee
  • $350  Binding Costs
  • $500-$4000+ transcript costs (typically $1,000/day)
  • 20-60 hours of legal work
There is a new program started by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that is specially designed for resolving appellate level family law issues. This is one way to potentially resolve appeal issues without prohibitive expense (it can save quite a bit by not having to write the actual brief).
One little bit of appeals trivia: the loser on the appeal has to pay “costs” which is the filing fee, transcript cost, & binding fees.(but not attorney fees)
Timelines
If you do want to appeal, or explore the possibility of an appeal, it is critically important to act quickly, as the deadline for most appeals is 60 days from entry of the divorce decree.As you can see filing an appeal is an expensive and technically challenging proposition, one that you need to give very great thought about before you do.

Any comments or questions feel free to email or comment below.
Jason Kohlmeyer
Mankato, Minnesota
507-625-5000As always, this is commentary, not legal advice.  For legal advice you need to sign a retainer and pay a fee.

About Jason Kohlmeyer

With over 14 years experience in high conflict family law cases, numerous awards, and frequent lecturer through both Minnesota and the United States on family law issues, Jason has decided to help folks through a blog, answering some of the most common questions that people have during divorce and family law cases

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