Appeals in Divorce and Family Law Cases
If your divorce or family law matter was not decided by the court in your favor at the trial court level, you may still be able to obtain relief through an appeal. However, the ability to file an appeal is limited and time sensitive. You should have a seasoned family law attorney who can review the final judgment or order with you, discuss the pros and cons of appealing, and then file the appeal before the deadline. There are complicated factors to consider whether to file an appeal of a family law matter, and the lawyers at Patrick D. West Law Firm are familiar with all such factors.
The Requirements for a Family Law Appeal
In most cases, Texas law requires that an appeal of a family law judgment be filed no later than 30 days after entry of the judgment or order in question. Once the notice of appeal is filed, the trial court will then be aware of the appeal. The appellant (or the party filing the appeal) must file an initial brief with the appellate court, as well as a transcript of the trial proceedings, and any relevant motions, pleadings or other evidence. The time frame for an appeal can be lengthy and demanding. Therefore, the appellant must be fully prepared with arguments as to why the appellate court should overrule the trial court’s decision, also explaining to the appellate court why it has jurisdiction or authority to do so.
Court policies and the interests of justice usually favor finality of judgments, and not questioning the fact-finding discretion of the trial court. Therefore, the appellate court is usually limited to reviewing questions of law, or instances in which the trial court clearly abused its discretion. The appellate court may find that the trial court abused its discretion if it made outrageous and clearly unreasonable rulings that were unsupported by the facts or law.
Usually, the trial court has broad discretion to make findings of fact, so those rulings will most often not be disturbed on appeal unless they were clearly arbitrary and capricious. If the trial court had ample evidence to support its decision, the appellate court will usually not overturn the trial court’s rulings, unless the lower court clearly misapplied the law to the facts, or made other egregious errors. An appellate court will often apply the standard of whether “reasonable and fair-minded individuals” would have reached the same conclusions as the trial court.
The appellate court will review the initial brief of the appellant, the answer brief of the appellee, and sometimes a reply brief by the appellant. Sometimes (but not always), the appellate court will allow the parties to present arguments to the court in person, or by oral argument. The appellate court will generally not consider any evidence or testimony that was not presented to the trial court below. The appellate may affirm or uphold the trial court’s decision, or it may possibly reverse the lower court’s decision and order a new trial. Sometimes the appellate court will disagree with only a portion of the trial court’s decision and will reverse only certain provisions, but uphold the rest.
Contact the Experienced Appeals Attorneys at the Patrick D. West Law Firm
Litigation and trials are always unpredictable. Virtually no attorney can guarantee any particular outcome for their client at trial. Attorneys have sometimes lost cases which they seemed sure to win, and the opposite is true as well. However, no matter what the reason for the unfavorable decision, our attorneys can help you review the final order in question and help you decide if the appeals process is a good legal strategy for you. Call us at (817) 332-2600 or contact us via our online form to set up an appointment if you need assistance with a family law appeals matter or assistance with another type of family law matter.