How to Appeal a Divorce Judgment in Oregon

by Beverly Bird

The greatest downside to a hard-fought divorce battle is that you end up trusting the most precious aspects of your future to the opinion of a single person: the judge. Juries do not hear divorce trials in Oregon and judges are only human. Sometimes, they err. Oregon gives you the right to appeal a judge’s decision after a divorce trial, but the procedure is exacting and fraught with legal technicalities.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Step 1

Alert the Oregon Court of Appeals, as well as the trial court, that you are going to appeal the judge’s decision. The trial court is the county court that issued your divorce judgment. You must file a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals and send a copy of the notice to the trial court and to your spouse or her attorney. You have only 30 days in which to do this, beginning with the date the trial court issued your judgment.

Step 2

Contact your county court to put you in touch with a court-approved transcriber. Arrange to have the transcriber listen to the sound recordings of your trial and prepare a printed record of everything everyone said. Most transcribers will submit the completed transcripts to the Court of Appeals on your behalf when they're completed.

Step 3

Gather copies of all legal filings either you or your spouse submitted to the trial court in the course of your divorce. File these documents with the Court of Appeals and serve a copy on your spouse or her attorney. This becomes your “record on appeal” with the appellate court, along with the transcripts the transcriber will submit for you.

Step 4

Access a format for your opening brief. Oregon has very specific rules for briefs, including the font and type size you must use, so consult the court rules to avoid mistakes. You can visit the appellate court’s website and consult the “sample briefs” page to learn the format and necessary requirements. You have only 49 days from the date the appeals court receives your transcripts to file your opening brief.

Step 5

Write your opening brief. You cannot introduce any new evidence or information. The court will base its decision solely on the facts presented to the trial court, and that judge's interpretation of them. Therefore, your entire brief must focus on case law and “assignments of error,” which tell the appellate court what mistakes you think the trial judge made.

Step 6

Respond to the answering brief your spouse or her attorney will file to rebut the facts contained in your brief. Your document is a “reply brief” and must generally follow the same format as your opening brief. You’re still constrained to arguing only points of law.

Step 7

Attend oral argument. This is a court hearing where you can verbally repeat and enforce what you wrote in your briefs, and you must present your oral summation to a three-judge panel. These judges will have reviewed all the documents from your divorce trial by this time and will make a decision as to whether the trial judge erred. The judges probably will not issue a decision at the time of your hearing. You may wait several months, even up to a year or more, to receive their written opinion.