Family Law & Child Custody Appeals
The desired outcome is not always reached in a family law trial. If a party truly did not receive the outcome they deserved, based on procedural methodology and the evidence presented, there is an avenue to modify the outcome and that is an appeal.
Should a procedural error occur at the trial court level (a district court or county court at law in some counties), then a litigant has the ability to file an appeal. Should an appeal be granted, then the litigant has the opportunity to have their case reheard. This does not mean the entire case is necessarily reheard. If a court made a procedural error in the division of property this does not mean the child support would be recalculated, for example. Appeals can be very narrow in scope.
Any part of a family law case may be appealed – conservatorship, child support, rights and duties, possession and access, division of property, spousal support, etc.
Grounds for Appeal
There are a limited number of reasons an appellate court would grant an appeal. The most common reason for an appeal in family law cases is an abuse of discretion. Abuse of discretion occurs when a court or judge acted unreasonable or did not follow the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure or Family Code.
Procedure for Appeal
Should a litigant have grounds for appeal, there is strict procedure to begin the appellate process. It is important to stress that the following steps are all time-sensitive in nature.
- The grounds for appeal must have been preserved in the record. This means that a litigant or their attorney must request a copy of the record taken during trial and ensure that the proper objections were made during the trial to “preserve” it for appeal.
- A notice of appeal must be filed within thirty days after the date of entry or when the divorce decree or order was filed with the court. This notice of appeal lets the court know that a litigant will be filing an appeal.
- A brief will then be filed in a timely manner which actually lays out the legal reasoning and arguments for the appeal. This will also include the trial transcript discussed above as well as any other evidence or supporting documents.
This brief will need to be exhaustive in detail and legal theories to support the need for an appeal. An appeal should not be taken lightly. One must have a licensed Texas family law attorney who is capable of handling an appeal as the nature of an appeal case is very different than the original family law matter. There are time constraints that one must be mindful of and the laws relating to an appeal are very specific. An appeal is not a casual undertaking because someone is not happy with the general result of a family law case.
Even if all of the above is competently addressed it can be exceedingly difficult to overturn a court’s ruling. The burden is on the litigant desiring the appeal and that burden can be quite difficult to prove. The appellate court will review all the evidence, the trial record and the appellant’s brief (and any response filed by the non-appealing party) and then will decide if there is enough proof to show that the trial court abused its discretion in any manner. The parties are not allowed to put on new evidence or testimony; they may only argue about what happened before the trial court.
If the appellate court sides with the appellant, then they may overturn the trial court’s ruling or may send the matter back down for new trial. As one can imagine, this process can take months or even years. This is a time consuming and expensive process so it is vital that one be in the hands of the best legal team possible.
The Ramos Law Group, PLLC is experienced in and mindful of the Texas appeals process. The skilled attorneys are competent in laying the groundwork for any potential appeal in all of their family law cases as well as able to handle an appeal should a client need one.