A Wisconsin divorce appeal is generally rather difficult to win. There are two main reasons for this. First, a Wisconsin divorce appeal is reviewed under the discretionary standard. This means that, for issues of property division, child support, maintenance, and child custody/placement, the judge has discretion to make a “reasonable” order based on the testimony and credibility of witnesses. Even if the appeals court might have disagreed with the trial judge’s decision, it will not overturn it unless it was (a) a misuse of discretion or (b) based on a legal error.
Second, a Wisconsin divorce appeal is not a “do-over” of the divorce trial. The appeals court does not hear more testimony or accept more evidence. The appeals court only reviews the testimony and documents from the trial. The lawyers only file written legal briefs explaining their arguments. In a perfect world, the lawyer presented evidence at trial with a possible appeal in mind. Doing that ensures that all the necessary information and arguments are brought up at trial. If not, the client is prevented from making an new argument or presenting new evidence on appeal, and the issue is waived.
It is important to find out prior to filing the appeal if it would be worth the cost and effort. First, it may take up to a year or more from the end of trial until a decision is received from the appeals court. The amount of legal research and evidence review for appeals is also lengthy, and therefore the cost can be substantial. These are important considerations to discuss with your Wisconsin divorce lawyer before committing to an appeal.
Finally, the deadline to file an appeal can be as short as 45 days, and cannot be extended. Therefore, if you have any question whether an appeal is possible, you MUST consult a Wisconsin divorce attorney immediately. The review of evidence and related law will take some time, and most good lawyers will not accept such heavy work one day before the filing deadline.
All this being said, if the trial judge made a legal error, or if the order simply does not fit with the evidence, a successful appeal is certainly possible. I have worked on many Wisconsin divorce appeals, and am willing and able to consult with you. Together, we would decide whether an appeal is wise and, if so, how best to present it to the court. I encourage you to call me for a consultation.