The Florida family court system is designed to be a fair venue for deciding some of the most personal cases that plaintiffs and defendants will ever experience. But no system is perfect, and the reality is that judges will sometimes make decisions that are not in line with the law. If you feel that your rights were violated in family court, call our skilled family law appeals attorney at Orlando Family Team. We will evaluate the trial court’s decision, advise you of your legal options, and, if possible, take your case to the appeals court.
What Reasons Are There To Appeal Family Court Cases?
There are many misunderstandings about the Florida appeals court process and what grounds are sufficient to successfully challenge a trial court’s ruling. It’s important to understand that simply disagreeing with a judge’s decision is not enough to appeal his or her ruling. An appeal is also not a retrial of the original dispute between you and the other party. Instead, the purpose of an appeal is to challenge errors of law. These are errors that undermine the legal system and in some way infringe upon a party’s rights.
These are some of the examples of errors that may be appealed:
- The judge in your trial improperly overlooked, ignored, or admitted evidence
- A decision or order is not permitted by law or by the Florida or U.S. Constitution
- Fraud was committed on the court either by a party or by his or her attorney
- The judge engaged in illegal or unethical behavior during the trial
- The judge abused his or her discretion
- Procedural errors were made
In essence, the judge must have done, or allowed, conduct that was illegal, unethical, or fundamentally unfair to one of the parties. This is a high bar for any litigant, which is why having a skilled family law appeals attorney is essential.
What Is The Difference Between An Appeal And A Modification?
Appeals challenge the legal sufficiency of a court’s decision. When you appeal a case, you are contradicting some decision or behavior of the judge, or the other party or attorney, and asking the appeals court to render the decision invalid as a matter of law.
On the other hand, a modification is designed to change a previous order based on a significant change in circumstances. It does not carry the case to the appeals court but leaves it at the trial court level.
Take the example of child support. If the trial court judge applied an incorrect legal standard that affected your rights, there could be grounds for an appeal. On the other hand, after the order is handed down you may later wish to modify child support if you experience a drop in income. This modification does not challenge the legal sufficiency of the initial decision.
What Kinds Of Cases Can Be Appealed?
Most final judgments or orders of court can be appealed in Florida. A judgment or order is considered final if there is nothing further to be done concerning the particular dispute between the parties (e.g., child support). The standard used by the appellate court is whether the judgment or order puts an end to judicial labor in the trial court.
Some temporary orders may also be appealed, but they are generally limited to:
- The right to immediate monetary relief
- The rights or obligations of a party regarding child custody or time-sharing under a parenting plan
- Cases in which a marital agreement is held to be invalid in its entirety
What Does The Appeals Court Do?
Because the appeals court does not retry cases, there is no evidence presented or testimony given. The appeals court, usually composed of three judges, instead reviews the record on appeal and briefs prepared by the respective parties. The appealing party (appellant) can file a brief arguing how he or she believes the lower court erred. The responding party (appellee) may file a brief answering it. If oral argument is requested, the court may schedule it. Oral argument allows the attorneys to present their arguments and the judges to ask questions.
How Do I Appeal A Family Court Judgment Or Order?
The first and perhaps most important thing to know is that you only have 30 calendar days from the date an order or judgment is signed to appeal it. The appeals process begins when you file a Notice of Appeal with the clerk of court. A non-final order may be appealed within 30 days after entry of the final judgment or order. However, to preserve your right to appeal, it is strongly suggested that you speak with an experienced Florida family court appeals attorney as soon as you receive an unfavorable order.
In most cases, the appeals court will need a record of the trial court proceedings. To that end, the appellant may include a trial transcript or an acceptable substitute. It is difficult for an appeals court to evaluate the conduct of the trial court without this record. However, some rulings, judgments, or orders made by the trial court are erroneous on their face and can be reversed on that basis.
How Can A Family Law Appeals Attorney Help Me?
There are numerous rules and deadlines that have to be followed for a party to appeal a trial court decision. Florida’s Rules of Appellate Procedure set forth these requirements, and an experienced family law appeals attorney is usually in the best position to understand them.
A skilled attorney will also be familiar with the relevant case law, statutes, and rules which will govern the appropriate legal standards in your case. For example, Florida has detailed laws that control what types of evidence are admissible and under what circumstances.
Contact Our Orlando Family Law Appeals Attorney
Family court decisions have a lasting impact on our children, our finances, and our property. If you believe the trial court did not treat you fairly, reach out to Orlando Family Team today.