Some divorce and family law matters do not settle. Instead, the case is tried in the family court. Putting the case in the hands of a family court judge can be a risky proposition.
Most parties would prefer to settle outside of court, but it is not always possible. All it can take is one issue of disagreement for many parties to decide that they have no choice but to go to trial.
After trial, the family court judge will issue a judgment. How this works can vary by jurisdiction and locality, but it can often take weeks or longer for a judge to render their judgment. It can take weeks because family court judges generally have to issue a written judgment that has findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Some parties are happy with the results of the trial. Other parties are extremely unhappy with the results. In some cases, it can be a mixed bag. A party might like certain parts of the judgment and not like others.
For parties who are unhappy with the results, the question for them is whether they should appeal the judgment. Appealing the ruling can prolong the litigation. It can result in more attorneys’ fees. But the question beyond that is whether or not an appeal will work.
The reality is the laws vary by jurisdiction. Every case can also be completely different and involve different intricacies. However, in a general sense, to succeed on an appeal, a party must generally show that the family court judge erred as a matter of law or that they abused their discretion.
These terms can be somewhat complicated for many to understand. But to show the judge erred as a matter of law, this generally requires a showing that the judge did not abide by the statutes, rules or existing case law. Sometimes, this does happen, but it is not always easy to show.
To show the judge abused their discretion is a bit more complicated. Within the confines of statutes, rule and existing case law, there is some grey area that family court judges can navigate based on the law. Take the standard in child custody cases that these matters are to be resolved based on the best interests of the child.
To determine what is in the best interests of the child, a family court judge has to weigh the evidence. The family court judge also can believe and disbelieve witnesses. All of this requires some discretion. Showing a judge abused their discretion is not easy, but sometimes a party can prove it.
To simplify how an appeal works, think instant replay in football. With instant replay, the question is whether or not the referee got the call right based on the play itself and the rules the referee has to apply. An appeal works largely the same way.
Parties do not get to redo the trial on appeal. Instead, the appellate court is to review the transcript and legal file. In doing that, the issue is whether the trial court erred based on the evidence presented at trial.
For some parties, they might have a reasonable chance of succeeding on appeal. For others, it might be difficult to prevail. Nonetheless, for parties who are considering an appeal, there are deadlines that have to be followed or else a party can waive the right to appeal. Thus, it is always critical to speak to a lawyer right away.
If you are going through a divorce or family law matter and considering an appeal, Stange Law Firm, PC can help. You can contact us at 855-805-0595.