Can You Appeal A Family Law Ruling?
When a judge makes a final ruling in family law case, it’s not uncommon for one party to be unhappy with the results. Especially in matters regarding divorce where issues like child custody, child support, alimony, and division of assets can all have a big impact on either spouse’s quality of life after the verdict.
Every state has an appeals process for appealing a court ruling, and it can be used when one party believes that a judge has made a mistake. However, a decision cannot be appealed simply because someone doesn’t like the outcome.
Family Law Appeals Process
When an attorney submits an appeal, it is a request made to a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court. An appeal is not a rehearing of the case that was just decided, and no new evidence can be submitted for consideration.
The role of the appeals court is strictly limited to reviewing the trial record and determining whether or not the judge in the case acted within his or her discretion. If the appeals court finds that the judge did not act improperly, the decision of the original judge will be upheld.
Final vs Temporary Order Appeals
In a divorce case, typically only the final divorce order can be appealed. This is important to know because it is very common for judges to issue temporary rulings during the divorce process regarding various issues, and those temporary orders cannot be appealed without getting permission from the appellate court.
If one party believes that a temporary ruling is putting themselves or their children in danger, or is a time-sensitive matter that requires immediate attention, that may be grounds for appealing a temporary ruling.
What Issues Can Be Appealed?
To submit an appeal, there must be a legitimate reason (grounds). Grounds for an appeal are limited to errors of law and in facts.
As an example of an error in law would be if state law requires a parent convicted of domestic violence to complete counseling before the award of any custody rights, but a judge nonetheless grants that parent custody without proof of counseling and in direct violation of the law.
In contrast an error in fact would likely be found if a judge reaches a conclusion that no other reasonable person would have reached based on the evidence.
An example of that would be if a judge awarded sole custody to a parent convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault on the child, in the face of strong evidence demonstrating the fitness of the other parent.
How To Start An Appeal
An appeal may be started by filing a Notice of Appeal with the family law court typically within thirty to sixty days parties receive the original order.
It is rarely, if ever, a good idea for any individual to attempt the appeals process without the assistance of an experienced attorney. If you believe the court has made an error in your divorce or other family law matter, please contact our offices immediately for a free consultation.
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