California law gives you the right to appeal the ruling of a family law court, if you believe the judgment is unfair to you. You can appeal to a state appellate court for any family law court ruling related to child custody or visitation, property division, spousal or child support, or another issue.
Grounds for appeal may include abuse of discretion by the trial court, lack of evidence in the case, or wrong interpretation or application of the California family law code by the trial court. Particularly when the appeal is based on faulty application of the law, the appeals court will use highly rigorous standard of review.
However, the appellate court is bound by certain limitations about what it can do on your family law matter appeal. You should discuss your case with a knowledgeable Orange County family law appeals attorney and formulate the most appropriate legal strategy.
Your attorney will also advise you that if you want to modify the court’s original decision regarding spousal support or child support, the matter needs to go back to the trial court, and not to the appellate court.
Time Allowed to file an Appeal
Once the trial court has finalized its judgment in California, you can file a notice of appeal within the time limits specified by law. You can appeal on or before 60 days from the date you received “Notice of Entry” of the court judgment or the date when the copy of the judgment (file stamped) was mailed to you.
The “Notice of Entry” of the court judgment is the legal form that is completed along with the judgment. After the court has approved the judgment, the court clerk will mail this form to your divorce lawyer (or to you directly if you have no legal representative).
If you fail to file your notice of appeal on or before the deadline, you could forfeit your right to appeal. But your Orange County appeals attorney may be able to help you in extending the last date in some cases. They may suggest you alternative solutions, such as filing a motion to vacate the judgment or a motion for a new trial.
How will the Appellate Court Review Your Case?
Once you have filed your appeal, the Court of Appeal will begin its review. At the outset, you should know the appellate court will give the highest level of deference to the trial judge’s factual findings, and it is very hard to challenge these findings.
If the evidence on record corroborates the findings of the trial judge, the appellate court will not disturb them. The Court of Appeal will not allow witness testimony and will not review existing exhibits or admit new exhibits (except in extraordinary circumstances).
Therefore, the large part of litigation in this court occurs by way of written appellate briefs. More often than not, the appellate judge would have drafted a tentative opinion even before your attorney has presented arguments before the court.
How does an Appeal differ from a Writ?
In simple terms, writs are filed for emergency cases, and appeals are filed for non-emergency cases. The appellate courts in California are usually burdened with many cases, and as a result, your appeal could take a significantly long time. Depending on your case, you may expect the ruling of the appellate court to be made in about one year after you filed the notice of appeal.
According to the law in California, the appellate judge will have to issue a written opinion for each and every case. Through this opinion, the judge will provide their rationale behind either affirming or overturning the trial court’s judgment. That’s why appeals in California can take so much time.
Writs, on the other hand, get prioritized. If the circumstances are pressing enough, the appellate court can deliver a decision on a writ even within hours. Writ relief is completely discretionary, and the court is not required to explain its reasons for its decision (unlike in an appeal).
Consult with a Skilled Divorce Lawyer in Orange County
If you believe that the divorce judgment given by the family law court in Orange County is unworkable or unfair, you may have an opportunity to obtain relief through court order modification or by approaching the appellate court. Consult with a seasoned family law attorney in Orange County about the legal strategy to have your divorce decree changed.