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After a divorce becomes final -- whether through settlement agreement or after a court decision -- either spouse may still have an opportunity to challenge certain decisions made by the court, or change certain rights and obligations set out in the final divorce judgment. Understanding the types of orders and errors that you can appeal will help you determine how to best proceed if you believe a judge made a mistake in your case. An appeal is a request made to a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court. The most common reasons for an appeal from a decision by the Family court are as follows:
1. the court failed to make adequate findings of fact,
2. the court failed to follow the law (controlling statute, case law, or court rules,
3. the court failed to conduct a plenary hearing to resolve material issues in dispute; and
4. the court abused its discretion.
Appeals can only be taken by either party from a final order or judgment. An order or judgment is only final where it disposes of all issues as to all parties. While appealing your divorce involves challenging the trial court's decision in front of a higher court, you can also ask the trial court itself to change certain aspects of the divorce judgment after it has been entered -- including child custody arrangements, visitation schedules, child support, and spousal support (alimony).
Sometimes errors are made in the final judgment, either due to a mistake or a misapplication of the law by the court. In these instances, it is possible to appeal the judgment to the district court of appeals, but a Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of the rendition of the final order or judgment in order to protect your rights.
Family Court appeals are administratively screened and, if deemed appropriate, placed on an accelerated schedule. The appeals that qualify for an accelerated schedule of disposition generally include issues such as the termination of parental rights, child abuse, adoption, legal guardianship, and issues pertaining to custody.
Appeals court decisions usually turn on the "record," a written version of what happened in the trial court. The success of an appeal therefore usually depends on what occurred at trial; new evidence may not ordinarily be introduced on appeal. Once an appeals court has made its decision, the opportunity for further appeals is limited.
At Elaine M. Simon, Marital and Family Law Attorneys, our attorneys are well versed in all facets of the appellate process - determining the likelihood of success on appeal, deciding whether and when to present an emergent application, leave to appeal, how to structure appellate briefs, and the presentation of effective oral argument before appellate courts. For assistance with a family law appeal in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens or anywhere in Palm Beach County, please contact us at our office in Palm Beach Gardens to speak with one of our experienced family law appellate attorneys.
To schedule a confidential consultation with the Palm Beach County attorney, call Elaine M. Simon, Marital and Family Law Attorneys at (561) 472-0087.