Just because you are finished with your family law trial, that does not mean that your case is over. Both parties have the option to appeal the case if they do not think that the result is fair or in line with the applicable law. The family law appeals process allows you to challenge the factual or legal conclusions that the court has reached.
Perhaps the court seems to have ignored some very important factual information or appears to have misinterpreted the law—an appeal may be appropriate in either of those situations. However, it is important to note that higher courts will rarely substitute their own judgment for that of the lower court. The trial court has considerable discretion when it comes to family law matters. Nonetheless, having that discretion does not mean that the judge will always get it right.
You have several options to alter or appeal your judgment after a divorce, custody, or support determination. While not all of these options are technically “appeals,” they sometimes have a similar effect.
1. Notice of Exception to the Report and Recommendation of a General Magistrate
If a General Magistrate heard your case, you could file this type of notice, and a Circuit Court Judge will hear your case. However, you must file this objection within ten days of the magistrate’s decision.
2. Motion for Rehearing
If the divorce court heard your case, you could file a Motion for Rehearing to have a second “bite at the apple” regarding your case. These are often used when you believe there was an error that occurred at the first hearing. You must file this motion immediately after you receive the decision and the court can outright decline your request for a rehearing.
In a standard appeal, you can ask the District Court of Appeals to hear your case. Usually, you should request this type of appeal if you believe the lower court abused its discretion or made an error of law. You must file this appeal within 30 days of the original court order. You are not permitted to present any additional evidence.
4. Motion for Relief from Judgement
This type of relief is difficult to obtain because you may be required to show that the court was defrauded by your former spouse—such as in situations where your former spouse lied about his or her assets or income. These can be filed even after the 30-day period for the standard appeal has passed.
Standard Appeal Procedure
If you choose to use the standard appeal, you must follow the court’s order as it stands while the appeal is pending. However, you can request that the court grant a stay while the appeal is in process. A stay essentially pauses the judgment until the appeal is over.
Your appeal consists of a written brief that will be presented to the court. Then, the other side will have a chance to respond to your submission. Finally, you can respond to their response as well. Your attorney may also orally argue your case in front of a three-judge panel. Oral arguments are not always permitted.
Once your case is fully submitted to the court, the waiting process begins. There is no set time limit in which the court must rule. However, the average appeal will usually be on file for about one year before the court issues a decision.
The appeal process can be complicated, and because the issues involved in family law are often near and dear to your heart, you should not risk attempting to appeal alone. Instead, contact us to learn more about how we can help with the appeal process.