Appealing Your Case – The Process

At the conclusion of a family law proceeding, a party can feel that the decision of either the judge or jury was incorrect. In such a scenario, it may be proper to appeal the judgment or verdict to a higher court. The process of appealing a trial court judgment to an appeals court can be a lengthy process, but can also ultimately result in the overturning of an unjust decision.

The timetables for filing an appeal begin to run when a final order is signed by the judge in a particular court handling the case. Generally, a party has thirty days from the date the order is signed to file their notice of appeal with the trial court. This will let the trial court know that a party is appealing the judgment to a higher court and put the appeals process into action.

Once a notice of appeal is filed, the appeals court will be notified of the intention of a party to appeal a case. At this point, it will be the duty of the appealing party, or appellant, to obtain the records of the proceedings in the lower court. This will be both the record of pleadings, or clerk’s record, along with the transcript of the trial, or the reporter’s record. These must be obtained with some urgency as the appeals court will want them turned over on a timely basis.

Once the clerk’s record and reporter’s record are obtained, the appellant will have to submit a brief in support of their position on why the lower court’s judgment should be overturned. The brief must lay out the issues challenged in the trial court’s judgment and argue why those issues should be found in the appellant’s favor, with citations to supporting case law and statutes. The other party seeking to uphold the lower court’s judgment will need to file a response brief to the appellant’s brief. The briefs are very important as the appeals court will review both of them before making a final decision on an appeal.

Sometimes, the parties will request an oral argument before the appeals court before they make their decision. This will let both parties present their position to a panel of judges from the appeals court as to why their position on the appeal should be followed. The time is limited in oral argument for the parties, and the court will not always allow it to be presented.

Once the appeals court has reviewed the briefs and heard oral argument, if allowed, they will render a written opinion on the appeal. The opinion will state whether the lower court’s judgment is upheld or reversed and give the basis for the decision by citing to pertinent law. The entire process from filing the notice of appeal to the receiving of the written opinion can take a year or longer. If you are considering filing an appeal on your case, an attorney familiar with the process can help you follow the pertinent deadlines and craft a brief argument that will hopefully persuade the appeals court to see the case in your favor.

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