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Family Law Appeals


Family in need of attorney

Just like any other legal proceeding, there are times when a court rules upon a matter, and an appeal may be necessary to review whether any mishandlings or errors occurred in the judicial process. The outcome of proceedings involving family law matters are particularly important, because the effect of such decisions can have a life-altering, and in some cases life-long impact, on an individual. The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. represent clients in a full range of family law appeals, including the appeal of rulings involving child custody, child support, alimony, property distribution, and other divorce or domestic-related issues.

What is a standard (typical) appeal and what are the time limitations?

In a standard appeal, the District Court of Appeals (‘DCA’)is called upon to review a decision of a lower court. The party requesting an appellate review (‘appellant’) must file proper notice of appeal with the trial court, within 30 days of rendition of the final order or judgment.

Are there alternatives to filing a standard appeal?

Yes, depending on your circumstances and the issues at hand, there are two options to consider. The first is a ‘Motion for Rehearing,’ which must be requested within ten days following entry of the decision. The judge has the authority to deny a request for rehearing, in which case it may be necessary to proceed with a standard appeal. In some cases, a request for rehearing is required prior to appealing to a higher court (i.e. inadequate findings of facts), to avoid the matter being remanded back to the lower court. The second alternative applies only to cases in which a General Magistrate heard the matter. Here, a party can object to the Magistrate’s findings by filing a ‘Notice of Exception to the Report and Recommendation,’ within 10 days of entry of the decision, which will allow the case to be heard by a Circuit Court Judge.

What are the grounds for an appeal in a Family Law Appeal?

It is important to know that just because you don’t like the court’s decision on a particular issue, does not mean that you have grounds to file an appeal. Rather, you must have a legally sufficient basis to support your request for appellate review. Some examples include:

  • The trial court abused its discretion in evaluating, determining and/or ruling upon a particular issue or issues;
  • The trial court made an error in interpreting the law, such as misinterpreting applicable law, or applying the inappropriate law to a matter;
  • One of the parties committed a fraud upon the court, such as falsifying income-related documents, or concealing assets.

Determining your right to appeal a prior decision will depend on the unique facts of your particular case. A family law litigation attorney that is experienced at both the trial and appellate level can evaluate your matter and discuss your legal rights and options to filing an appeal in Florida.

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What happens after I file a Notice of Appeal?

The trial court will prepare the record and submit it to the appellate court. The appellant generally has the responsibility of making sure that the record contains all appropriate and necessary documents (transcripts, documents filed by each party, orders etc.). In some cases, arrangements must be made to have official transcripts sent to the higher court. In addition, the appellant is typically required to provide instructions regarding the contents of the record, which must be submitted with a specific period of time (10 days for DCA cases) following the notice of appeal. Thereafter, appellate briefing will take place, which generally involves three events, listed in sequential order, as follows: (1) the appellant files its brief outlining why the decision should be reversed; (2) the opposing/defending party (‘appellee’) files its answer stating why the decision should be affirmed; and (3) the appellant files its response to the answer rebutting the arguments raised by the appellee. Following briefing, the parties will present oral arguments to the appellate court if the court requires it, prior to the court entering its decision.

What is the effect of the initial order or judgment during the appeals process?

While an appeal is pending, the parties generally must abide by the terms of the initial order or judgment. However, the lower court or court of appeal may grant a stay or other form of temporary relief, and/or impose special conditions while the parties are awaiting appellate review.

How long does a Family Law appeal take?

While there are time limitations for filing certain documents (i.e. notice of appeal, instructions regarding the record or transcripts, and appellate briefs), there is no set time period for the appellate court to rule upon an appeal. This applies to family law appellate proceedings, as well as other types of appeals too. However, having an experienced appellate attorney representing you, can prevent unnecessary delays, and keep the case moving along by addressing matters in a timely and efficient manner. Generally speaking, most standard family law appeals take around one year.

Do I need an attorney to appeal my case?

The appellant is not required to have an attorney, but securing legal representation is highly recommended, and for several reasons. The appeals process can be very complex. Appellate proceedings are governed by separate rules and involve different procedures. Family law appeals must be grounded upon a proper legal basis, supported by evidence, and presented to the appellate court in a manner that effectively relays your position to the court. Appeals also require a full understanding of the appropriate standard of review (i.e de novo as opposed to abuse of discretion etc.). In addition, it is important to consider whether there was a lack in the requisite fact-finding by the trial court, such that moving for rehearing is necessary prior to appeal to avoid the matter being remanded back to the trial court. These are just a few considerations in the appellate process, and it is important to know the consequences and impact of your actions or omissions, prior to initiating an appeal.

Whether you wish to appeal a decision, or are defending an appeal, the Gainesville Family Law Appeals Attorneys of Alba & Yochim P.A. are committed to protecting you, your children, and your assets. Given the time limitations associated with certain appellate filings, it is imperative that you discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible to avoid missing any important deadlines, and ensure that your legal rights are being adequately protected.