When a court hands down a ruling that you disagree with, one big question is raised: Are you stuck with it? In Indiana, the answer is “not necessarily.”
Indiana offers two primary mechanisms — the motion to correct errors and the notice of appeal — to challenge an order with which you disagree. One difference between these two mechanisms is that it must be a final order for a notice of appeal, whereas a motion to correct errors can be used on either provisional orders or a final order.
The biggest distinction between the two, however, is the difference in how they are filed.
A notice of appeal is filed directly with the clerk of the Court of Appeals, a change from the prior Rules of Appellate Procedure, and generally alleges that the trial court did not apply the law correctly or interpreted the law incorrectly. Usually, it is not up to the Court of Appeals to decide if the trial court made the correct decision or to reweigh the evidence; the Court of Appeals makes a strong presumption that the trial court was correct.
A motion to correct errors is filed in the court that heard the case and is served on the judge who issued the challenged ruling, which is an exception to the general trial rule that pleadings are served only on parties or attorneys of record. The motion to correct errors alleges that the court made factual errors, did not properly consider certain evidence or misapplied the law. This can be a request for the trial court to reweigh the evidence and should include a section describing how the evidence should be reexamined.
The time limit to file is 30 days for either one. If a motion to correct errors is filed first, then the time limit for a notice of appeal is “tolled” until 30 days after the motion to correct errors is deemed denied. If a notice of appeal is filed first, then the motion to correct errors is waived.
The timeline for a motion to correct errors to be deemed denied can be complex. It should be noted that the deadlines and timeline for a notice of appeal are set in the Rules of Appellate Procedure, and that there is no parallel mechanism by which a notice of appeal is deemed denied.
Once a motion to correct errors is filed, the opposing party has 15 days to file a response. However, a response is not required, and the trial court can deny a motion to correct errors based on the pleading alone.
If the court does not deny it, the trial court must rule on it or set it for hearing within 45 days (the hearing can be outside the 45 day deadline to set it for hearing). The trial court can deny the motion to correct errors after a hearing, and if the court does neither within 45 days, it is deemed denied.
Once the motion to correct errors is either denied in whole or in part, or deemed denied by one of the deadlines above, the 30 days for filing a notice of appeal begins for both parties.
If you have a disagreement with a ruling that has been given, make sure to speak with an experienced family court attorney as soon as possible to determine which avenue would be best for your unique situation.