Going through a family law case can be a trying time. You’re juggling your day-to-day obligations like school, work, kids, and errands. You may have spent months or even years wading through the legal, psychological, and social aspects of handling your family law case. If you disagree with the trial judge’s decision in your case, you may be able to appeal the decision.
At Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., we are fierce family law advocates. We fight for and work with our clients to help ensure that the outcome works for you. Family law cases can be messy because they involve practical and private details about people’s lives. That’s why we take a tailored approach to each situation. There’s no such thing as a “typical” anything in our office. Every case and every client receives our full attention.
What Is a Family Court Appeal?
A family court appeal is a way for you to ask another court to take a second look at the trial court’s decision.
You can’t appeal every trial court decision. The decision must be a final order or settle a critical issue in the case. You typically can’t appeal decisions that are procedural or resolve administrative issues.
Administrative issues include granting the other party’s request to continue the case or reschedule a hearing. You can generally appeal an order if the trial court decision concerns the final divorce judgment, final child custody order, or another substantive issue.
As with most things in the law, exceptions apply to these rules. Your lawyer is the best source of information regarding exceptions.
How Does an Appeal Work in Family Law?
A family law appeal is very different from what happens in the trial court. When you file an appeal, you’re asking another court to look at what happened in the trial court. You can’t present new evidence or call any witnesses.
An appeal begins with you filing the Notice of Appeal. From there, you need to file other legal paperwork (like the docketing statement) to lay the foundation for the appeal. The trial court clerks and court reporters put together the case documents and file them with the reviewing court. You or your lawyer prepare a brief with your arguments for why the trial judge’s decision was wrong. The opposing party prepares its brief, and you file a reply. The reviewing court may or may not call the parties (or their lawyers) in to make oral arguments before the appellate panel.
How Do I File a Family Court Appeal?
You file an appeal by filing a Notice of Appeal with the trial court that handled your family law case.
What Is a Notice of Appeal?
A Notice of Appeal puts the trial and reviewing court on notice that you would like to appeal the trial court’s decision. It’s the document that begins the appeals process. It also serves to protect your right to appeal the case. You may lose that right if you don’t file the Notice of Appeal or don’t file it in time.
The Notice of Appeal gives basic information about you, the case, and the order you would like to challenge. You also need to say what reviewing court has the authority to hear the appeal. You can look this information up online, but it’s best to let your lawyer handle these critical steps.
When Do I Have to File the Notice of Appeal?
In Washington, you have 30 days from the date that the trial court entered the final order in your case to file a Notice of Appeal. As we discussed, final orders include ones that settle all the issues in the case (like the final divorce decree) or resolve important issues.
If I File the Notice of Appeal, Does This Mean that I Have to Go Through with the Appeal?
Generally speaking, you don’t have to go through with the appeal if you file the Notice of Appeal but later change your mind. Filing the Notice of Appeal protects your right to appeal and gives you time to think about what you’d like to do. Filing the Notice of Appeal also allows you more time to talk to a family legal issues attorney about your case.
We understand that you want to resolve your family case efficiently. But you also want to do everything possible to secure a fair outcome. That’s where we come in. Since 1977, we have successfully helped people like you pursue justice.
Reasons to Appeal a Family Law Case
There are emotional and social reasons you might want to appeal your case. But not all those reasons constitute valid legal grounds for appealing the case.
You can appeal a family law case if the judge made a mistake about the facts or the law or if they abused their discretion when they decided a key issue. Here are some valid reasons to appeal a family law case:
- The judge did not follow the proper procedure;
- The judge misunderstood the facts;
- The judge’s decision does not align with the law that applies to your case; and
- The judge went beyond their authority.
In some cases, the judge may have made more than one mistake in the case.
A family law appellate attorney can help you comb through your case to determine if there is a valid reason to file an appeal on your behalf.
What Are the Possible Outcomes of an Appeal?
At the end of the appeal, the reviewing court decides the issues in the case. A possible outcome of an appeal includes the appellate court:
- Affirming the trial court’s decision;
- Reversing the trial court’s decision; or
- Modifying the trial court’s decision.
In limited cases, you may be able to appeal the reviewing court’s decision. You do this by filing a Petition for Review with the Washington Supreme Court. The Petition asks the Washington Supreme Court if they will hear the appeal. The Washington Supreme Court doesn’t have to hear your case. It only accepts a fraction of the submitted petitions each year. For that reason, it’s essential to have a knowledgeable family law appellate attorney on your side during the initial appeal.
Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.—Fierce Advocates in Western Washington
We understand that family law cases are trying. It can be devastating to finally have a decision, only to find out that the trial judge may have made a mistake. For over 45 years, we have served Western Washington’s communities. Our attorneys have successfully argued hundreds of family law cases and served as Guardian Ad Litem in over a hundred cases. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.