Sometimes, your family law case turns out differently than you expected. While you might initially think there is nothing more you can do to change your case’s outcome, you have legal options. One of these options is to appeal the court’s decision.
Even if you are satisfied with the outcome of your case, the other party may file an appeal. In that situation, you will need a strong defense to preserve your positive court decision and avoid having it overturned.
Whether you are the party seeking an appeal or responding to an appeal, you will need legal assistance. An experienced California family law appellate attorney from Evans Kingsbury LLP can represent your interests and guide you throughout the appellate process.
California Family Law Appeals Process
Appeals typically are reserved for final orders and other orders that a statute or law makes appealable. In a family law case, many orders are not appealable. You will need an experienced attorney to tell you whether your order is appealable or whether you have other options available to you.
Do I Have Grounds to Appeal the Court’s Order?
If you believe the court’s ruling in your family law case is unfair, you may have the right to appeal. For instance, you could appeal a family court ruling regarding child custody, visitation, child support, property division, spousal support, or another issue.
You may have legally valid grounds for appeal if the trial judge’s decision shows an abuse of discretion, is contrary to law, or there is no evidence to support it. A wrong interpretation or application of the law to your case also may be grounds for an appeal. However, the appellate court’s ability to change the trial judge’s order is usually limited. You should discuss your situation with a family law appeals lawyer to determine the best course of action in your case.
Some orders are not immediately appealable. In that case, you may need to challenge your court order by filing a petition for writ with the appellate court. Another option may be to file a motion to modify the order in the trial court. A family law appellate lawyer can discuss all available options with you and help you decide upon the strategy that is most likely to be effective in your case.
What Does an Appellate Court Do?
An appeal is not a simple “do-over” of the trial court proceedings or a chance to retry your case. A trial court judge considers the different versions of the facts presented by the parties and makes a decision after hearing the witnesses and reviewing the documents and other evidence. The appellate court will not second-guess the trial court’s factual findings based on the evidence presented in the trial court.
The appellate court gives a great deal of weight or deference to the trial judge’s factual findings. For example, if the trial court judge found a witness to be credible – or not credible – the appellate court will not disturb that finding on appeal unless there is no evidence in the record that could support the trial court judge’s finding. This legal standard can make it very difficult to overturn a trial court’s order on appeal.
The appellate court will, however, review whether the trial court made an error of law and whether the trial court correctly applied the law to the facts of the case.
Why Do I Need a Family Law Appeals Attorney?
The family law appeals process is complex and much different than trial court litigation. You need attorneys who understand family law, but you also need attorneys who understand appellate procedure. Winning on appeal can be extraordinarily challenging, so you should discuss your case with a Northern California lawyer who handles appeals in family law cases.
You only have a limited time to file a family law appeal after the trial court finalizes its judgment or order. Therefore, you should consult an experienced family law appellate attorney quickly. If you fail to file your notice of appeal before the deadline, you may forfeit your right to appeal. Preparing an appeal takes time, so contacting a lawyer early in the process to explore your options will benefit you.
What Can I Expect During a Family Law Appeal?
The function of the Court of Appeal is to review Superior Court decisions to determine if the judge correctly applied the law and made any reversible errors. A “reversible” error is one that prejudices your rights. Sometimes trial courts make errors that do not prejudice a party’s rights. Those are known as “harmless” errors. A party may waive a trial court’s error, sometimes unknowingly. If you or your trial counsel did not make objections, you may be considered to have “waived” errors.
On appeal, each party submits a written brief to the appellate court arguing why the court should or should not overturn the trial court’s decision. The appellate court does not take any evidence or hear any witness testimony. All the testimony, exhibits, and documents you want to rely on in the Court of Appeal must have been filed with or presented to the trial court. Following briefing, the attorneys appear before a panel of three appellate justices to give oral arguments supporting their positions. After oral argument, the appellate court then issues a ruling based on the written briefs and any oral arguments.
Family Law Appeals and Writs
As a practical matter, the family law appeals process takes a long time and therefore is best suited for non-emergency matters. Getting an opinion from the appellate court can take a year or more.
In California, certain family law orders are directly appealable. However, if you have an emergency, you may want to file a writ rather than an appeal.
Family law orders that are not directly appealable can be challenged via a petition for writ. For example, if a trial court issues a prejudgment or ex parte order on custody, you generally would challenge that order by filing a writ, not an appeal. Likewise, you would file a writ instead of an appeal to challenge a temporary custody order.
The writ process is commonly much faster than an appeal. The Court of Appeal usually treats a writ as an urgent matter. However, most writs are rejected immediately by the Court of Appeal without hearing. It is imperative that you have an experienced appellate lawyer prepare your writ petition for you, to make the best presentation possible so the Court of Appeal will consider your petition important enough to take immediate action.
Learn More About How a Family Law Appeals Attorney at Evans Kingsbury LLP Can Help
Challenging a court order through the family law appeals process can be lengthy and complex. When you want to pursue an appeal or explore your other options for relief, you need the assistance that only an experienced California family law appeals lawyer can provide you. Call the office of Evans Kingsbury LLP today at (707) 596-6090 or visit us online.