In Family Law cases, one side or the other is often unhappy with the court’s decision and believes the judge made an error. The most common remedy for correcting such an error is an appeal. An appeal is a request made to a higher court to review the Family Court’s decision. In the usual case this higher court is the District Court of Appeal. This court will not rehear the case or take new testimony or evidence, but will decide whether the Family Court made an error of sufficient importance to require a “reversal,” which sends the case back to the Family Court with directions to make a new decision based on the Court of Appeal’s directions.
Not every error by the Family Court merits an appeal, because the appellate court will only reverse if there is clear legal or factual error made by the Family Court, or if it determines that the Family Court abused its discretion. The appellate court will rarely decide whether the Family Court should have believed one party or witness over another, taking the position that the judge who tried the case and observed the testimony was in a better position to assess credibility. The appellate court will be more interested in whether the Family Court followed the law in making its decision. To cite just one of many examples, if the Family Court sets permanent spousal support without considering all of the many factors required by statute in support of a spousal support award.
There are usually two parties to an appeal: the “appellant,” who is seeking to have the Family Court’s decision reversed, and the “respondent,” who is satisfied with the decision and is seeking to have the appellate court confirm that the lower court’s decision was correct or that any error made by the lower court was not “prejudicial.” Our firm can represent either side in an appeal.
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