What is a Family Court Appeal?
An appeal is a legal proceeding where one of the parties seeks to have a decision reviewed by a higher court to determine whether the magistrate or judge who made the initial decision made a legal error or abused the court’s discretion. Family law matters that were decided by a magistrate are usually appealed to a district court judge, and orders that were issued by a judge are appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals. In order to appeal, the order generally has to be fully decided, and a final written order must be issued.
The goal of an appeal is to see whether the higher court will set aside the original order, ideally in the favor of the person who filed the appeal.
Some family court decisions you may appeal include:
WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR AN APPEAL?
Almost every decision made by a court in a family law case is going to make at least one party unhappy. Not all decisions can be appealed, however, and the appellate court cannot reverse a decision just because the appellate judge or judges might have decided the original matter differently. Generally speaking, for an appellate court to overturn the trial court’s decision, the appellate court has to find that the trial court abused its discretion or made a decision that is contrary to Colorado law. One of the most difficult things about family law appeals is that trial judges have broad discretion to decide most matters before them.
Legitimate reasons for an appeal can include:
- Mistakes made by the court
- A misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the facts
- Misunderstanding/misapplication of the law
If you have received an order that you believe is not fair or justified by the evidence presented to the court, an appeal may help you to fix the errors. Understanding whether your case has any likelihood of success on appeal can be a difficult determination, however. Our attorneys can help you assess whether your case has any chance of success on appeal, and if you decide to file an appeal, we have attorneys who can represent you in that process.
WHEN DOES AN APPEAL NEED TO BE FILED?
If you believe there was a mistake or the judge did not apply the law correctly during your family law or divorce proceedings, you should speak with one of our Colorado appellate attorneys at The Harris Law Firm as soon as possible. Appellate deadlines are very strict, and failing to file your notice of appeal or petition for magistrate review in a timely manner can bar you from appealing altogether. If your original order was issued by a magistrate, you may only have 14 days to seek review from a district court judge. If the order was issued by a judge, the notice of appeal must be filed within 49 days of the written order. If you miss those deadlines, you will lose your opportunity to file an appeal.
FOUR POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF AN APPEAL
- Reversal. This means the court decides the initial decision in your case was wrong and the decision is vacated.
- Remand. The Appellate Division sends your case back to family court to be heard again.
- Affirm. The first decision of the family court is held to be correct and your decision stays the same.
- Modification. The Appellate Division can change a part of the initial decision.
The possible outcomes listed above can also apply to only a part of an appeal rather than the entire order. For example, the court could affirm the order regarding child support, but reverse all or part of the order regarding division of property. Because the Court of Appeals cannot make factual findings, if the Court of Appeals reverses all or part of an order, the Court often remands the matter back to the trial court for further findings or proceedings. If the case is remanded, it may end up back in front of the same judge who issued the original order.
Parties should also know that filing a motion for appeal will not put a hold on a family court order. That means that the original order remains in place and can continue to be enforced while the appeal is pending. It is possible to request a stay of the original order (which does place the order on hold while the appeal is pending), but the request for a stay is only rarely granted.
HOW OUR FIRM CAN HELP
The Harris Law Firm is highly skilled and experienced when it comes to appeals regarding family law. Your court decision may not be the end of the story. Whether you want to overturn a custody decision or the size of your divorce settlement, we can help you navigate the appellate process.
With 250 years of combined experience, our lawyers have experience handling appeals or working for appellate courts. We understand the process with familiarity and insight. In the end, we can make sure that the facts of your case speak for themselves, creating the best solution for you and your loved ones.