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When Is The Right Time To Appeal?

appealing our family law issue

Considering the emotional and personal nature of many Texas family law matters, there is a good chance that one or more parties will be dissatisfied with the court’s finding in a case. Fortunately, there are options to appeal to a judge’s decision in the same way that other civil and criminal matters can be reviewed by a higher court. The appeals process is even more complicated than proceedings at the trial level in many ways, and one of the most important factors is timing. For purposes of complying with legal requirements and from a strategy standpoint, determining the right time to appeal is critical.

The details of when to file an appeal will depend on the circumstances of your case, so it is wise to consult with a Texas family law appeals attorney about the process. You might also find it useful to review some general information about the timing and related factors.

Time Restrictions on Appealing a Family Law Case: By statute, a person seeking to appeal a family law case must file the proper documents within 30 days after the entry of the final order. It is possible to appeal from decrees or judgments in many types of family law cases, including:

  • Divorce, in which you might appeal regarding the court’s finding on property division, spousal maintenance, or custody, visitation, and support for minor children;
  • Paternity matters, where you might not agree with a decision on parentage and/or a child support order entered in connection with the case;
  • Guardianship and custodianship cases;
  • Modification of spousal maintenance or child support;
  • Protective orders; and,
  • Many others.

Note that adoption and termination of parental rights issues are also subject to the 30-day requirement for purposes of appealing an order. However, there is a 60-day statute of limitations for an interested party to challenge the final adoption order.

To meet the timing requirement, the appellant must file a Notice of Appeal with the court clerk within the 30-day period. This document is a form that notifies the trial court and other parties – known as appellees – about the appeal. A secondary deadline to keep in mind is the filing of the appellate brief, which is a longer document that describes the grounds for appealing and the request for relief. The appellant has 70 days to submit the brief to the court and send it to the appellees.

Grounds for an Appeal in a Texas Family Law Matter: The appellant must state the reasons for seeking a review of a family court order briefly in the Notice of Appeal. In the appellate brief, you will go into much greater detail on the grounds for appeal. Typically, abuse of discretion is the basis for appeals in family court matters. The analysis by the appellate judges will be:

  • Whether the trial court judge acted unreasonably or arbitrarily in applying the law to the facts; and/or,
  • Whether the judge refused to consider appropriate laws or rules when making a finding.

Keep in mind that the appellate process does not involve rehearing the case or reconsideration of the issues before the trial court. Instead, the appellate judges will review the record from the trial court – all opening and closing statements, the exhibits presented by the parties, testimony from witnesses, and the final order. For the most part, an appeals court will NOT find an abuse of discretion where there is substantial proof to support the trial court’s finding.

How the Appellate Process Works in Texas: After filing the Notice of Appeal and brief, the appellees will have the opportunity to respond in writing. Once briefs are exchanged, the appellate court judges will review the documents and trial court records. There will be no new witnesses or evidence at the appellate level. The parties and their attorneys may only be present if the court requests oral arguments, but a decision could be made by the judges without a hearing.

Consult With A Texas Family Law Appeals Lawyer About The Legal Process

As you can see, determining when to appeal a family law case is just one of many complex details involved with the appellate process. Plus, you can be sure that the same strong emotions will be present or even more intense when the case goes before an appellate court. For these reasons, you should rely on our team at The Ramos Law Group, PLLC to advise you and advocate on your behalf. To learn more about how we can assist with appealing a family law case, please contact our Houston, TX office to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.