At the Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., our experience and dedication to family law can help our San Francisco family law clients navigate the appeals process in California. Dissatisfaction with the outcome of a trial for legal separation or marital dissolution does not provide grounds for an appeal. Settlement agreements usually cannot be appealed if both spouses agreed to the terms of the settlement. An appeal may be taken only if there has been an error of law. If the law has been misapplied in your marital dissolution, our firm offers experience at the appellate level of family law practice.
Knowledgeable San Francisco Family Law Appeals Attorney
We believe that justice is served through proper application of the law. When the law has been applied in error, you need an attorney experienced in the complexities of family law. At the Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., we diligently and aggressively assert the rights of our San Francisco clients and argue the nuanced contours of family law to illustrate the errors made by the trial court before the appellate court.
Our founding attorney, Debra R. Schoenberg, is a Certified Family Law Specialist with over 35 years of experience. She is highly qualified to handle family law appeals in San Francisco and throughout California. Our law firm has the resources and knowledgeable staff to help you assert your rights during an appeal of a dissolution of marriage order, legal separation, child custody decision, property division order or another type of court order.
When Is a Family Law Appeal Possible?
Because California law affords trial court judges broad discretion in family law matters, appellate courts are hesitant to overturn trial court decisions. However, there are circumstances in which the trial courts mistakenly apply the law to a particular marital dissolution or family law matter. Because family law judges are not infallible, the appellate process exists precisely to review these misapplications. Reasons for family law appeals may include:
- An unfair or unjust decision.
- Lack of evidence to support the case.
- Abuse of discretion by the trial court.
- Incorrect interpretation or application of the California Family Code.
- An erroneous judgment was made by the trial court.
- The appearance of new evidence or facts that are material to the case.
- Failure to consider all the facts that should have influenced the outcome.
- Ineffective legal counsel.
Appellate court decisions usually turn on the “record,” a written version of what happened in the trial court. The success of an appeal usually depends on what occurred at trial and the quality of the brief submitted to the appeals court. New evidence may not ordinarily be introduced on appeal. Once an appeals court has made its decision, the opportunity for further appeal is limited.
What Is the Family Law Appeals Process?
The appellate process can be confusing without a knowledgeable appeals attorney in San Francisco to guide you and formulate the most appropriate appeal strategy on your behalf. Although every case is unique, here’s an overview of the typical family law appeals process in California:
- You or your lawyer file the notice of appeal – a document you file in the Superior Court where your family law case was decided that lets the other side of the case know you plan on appealing the court’s decision.
- No more than 10 days after you file the notice, you inform the Superior Court which documents and evidence to include in the record to the appellate court. (Note that if you wish to modify a spousal support or child support order in California, your case will need to return to the trial court, not the appellate court.)
- You or your lawyer will prepare the brief – a written description of the facts of the case, the family law that applies and your argument about the issue(s) on appeal. The argument in the brief is what tells the appellate court whether or not a legal error was made.
- The respondent has 30 days from the date that you file the opening brief to respond with an answering brief. Then, you have 30 days to file a reply.
- A panel of three judges on the appellate court will hear oral arguments from both sides of the case; however, you cannot submit new evidence or witnesses. An appeal is not a retrial.
- The Court of Appeals will review the record to determine if the trial judge made a mistake when applying the law to your case. The judges will use highly rigorous standards to review the case, especially when it is based on faulty application of the law.
- If it is determined that the trial judge made an error that affected the final decision of the case, the panel of judges may order a new trial (reverse the decision) or remand the case to the trial court.
As a general rule, appellate courts defer to the initial trial judges. This means they are hesitant to overturn previously made family court judgments. However, you can build a stronger appeal with high-quality legal representation.
How Soon Must You File a Family Law Appeal in California?
Once a family law court decision has been made, you only have a short amount of time in which to file an appeal under state law. If you miss your deadline, you will waive the right to appeal the family court’s decision. However, you may be able to file a motion for a new trial or a motion to vacate judgment for a deadline extension. If you intend to appeal the decision, it is important to retain a San Fransisco family law appeals attorney for appellate counsel as soon as possible.
Typically, in a limited civil case (one that involves an amount of $25,000 or less), an appeal must be filed by the earliest of 30 days after you’ve been served with a notice that the judgment has been entered or 90 days after the entry of the judgment. If your family law case involves an amount of $25,000 or more (an unlimited civil case), you have the earlier of 60 days after being served with the judgment entry notice or 180 days after the entry.
Contact a San Francisco Family Law Appeals Attorney Today
Family court judgments affect intimate aspects of people’s lives, including finances and children. A judgment based on legal error can have a serious impact on your future. An experienced family law attorney is critical in an appeal because misapplication of the law can seriously affect your legal rights.
Because the appellate process is time-sensitive and involves numerous statutory deadlines, we make every effort to ensure that you are aware of your appellate rights. At the Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., we will assist you in analyzing your appellate options. To speak with a San Fransisco family law appeals attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area about the appellate process, please call 415.834.1120. We will prepare your appeal with care, diligence, and attention to detail.