Florida Family Law Appeals Process
Most custody arrangements and divorce matters are handled competently and satisfactorily by judges, attorneys, and the parties. But sometimes, parents are unfairly denied custody, or marital assets are divided inequitably between a couple. Whether this is due to a procedural error or fraudulent act, the results can be devastating for families. Fortunately, Florida uses an appeals system to ensure that judgments are fairly decided. If you are considering a divorce, it is vital that you contact an experienced attorney who can make sure that your case goes as smoothly and fairly as possible.Petitioning the Court
In Florida, the first step to beginning the process of an appeal is to submit a written document known as a Notice of Appeal to the District Court of Appeal, explaining why the case was unjustly or unfairly decided. If a party does not have the automatic right to an appeal, he or she must submit a Petition for Review instead.Presenting the Evidence
If the appellate court agrees to hear the case, both parties will need to submit briefs describing the facts of the case, the relevant legal arguments, and a request for the court to correct the trial court’s ruling. Once the appellate briefs are submitted, a three-judge panel may decide to hear oral arguments on the issues. The panel can only review the evidence previously presented to the lower court and will focus on applying the law to the facts already established. There is not a particular time period that the court must follow, and some appeals take years to decide.Making a Judgment
Eventually, the appellate court will make a judgment on whether the trial judge committed reversible error. Once the court decides that that an error exists or that relief is denied, the appellate court can either dismiss the case, order a new trial, or reverse a portion of the lower court’s ruling. If one of the parties disagrees with the ruling, he or she can request a rehearing and ask the court to reconsider the decision if it was based on a specific mistake, like a change in the law. There is usually a two-week delay between the final decision and the date the mandate is issued.Cause for an Appeal
There are several possible grounds for an appeal in Florida family law cases, including that:
- One of the parties committed fraud;
- A spouse concealed assets;
- The court made a legal error;
- The judge abused his or her discretion; or
- New facts were discovered.
The clerk of the trial court will prepare a record of the evidence submitted to the trial court for the appellate court to review. The record consists of the following:
- The transcripts of hearings and trials;
- The orders and judgments of the trial court; and
- Documents filed with the court.
The party requesting the appeal must ensure that all necessary documents are included, and has ten days to give instructions to the clerk regarding the lower court’s record.Time Limits
An appeal of a judge’s final order must be submitted within 30 days of the date when the order was issued. A failure to do so constitutes a waiver of the option to appeal.
The advice of an experienced family law attorney is important to facilitating a divorce matter or custody issue. If you have been granted a divorce or have had a custody matter resolved, but wish to appeal the judgment, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.