The road to divorce in North Dakota is never smooth or free from unexpected bumps. However, even the bumpiest road can produce a divorce decree that fairly resolves all issues between the parties, including spousal maintenance, property division and, if necessary child support and custody. Some divorces, however, end badly, with one or both ex-spouses feeling that the court did not understand their arguments or hear their evidence. What can be done?
The first option is appealing the judgment to the North Dakota Supreme Court. This option is generally the most expensive. Another factor to consider is the fact that oftentimes appeals from divorce judgments fail. The Supreme Court is very unlikely to find that the there was an error in the judge’s decision that warrants a reversal.
A second option is a post-trial motion to vacate or amend the judgment. Such motions can be less expensive than an appeal, and they can target specific portions of the judgment, such as child support, custody, spousal maintenance and property division. A motion to modify the divorce decree must ordinarily be filed in the court that issued the divorce decree. The motion must demonstrate that the circumstances that prevailed when the decree was issued have changed substantially. A classic example of such changed circumstances is the loss of a job by the spouse who has custody of the children or a significant promotion for the spouse that must pay child support. In either case, the economic circumstances may justify an order modifying the decree.
Under no circumstances should a person attempt to modify a divorce decree simply because they are unpleased about the outcome. Personal displeasure does not often equate with the existence of legal error. Anyone who wants to challenge the validity of the proceedings in their divorce may wish to consult with an attorney for advice on the likelihood of obtaining one or more useful modifications.