Atlanta Divorce and Family Law Appeals Attorneys
When thinking of appeals, you might imagine a criminal defendant trying to clear their name or the Supreme Court debating the constitutionality of a law. Family law appeals, however, are possible, and they’re more common than you think.
If you received an unfavorable, legally questionable decision in a divorce or child custody matter, you could file motions in the court that made the decision or appeal it to a higher court.
Appeals are high-stakes matters, and for the best chance of success, you should retain an attorney’s services throughout the process. The Atlanta divorce attorneys of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC are experienced in child custody and divorce appeal proceedings. Let us work on your behalf to build convincing arguments and ensure a fair review process. Contact us at (404) 688-8810 for a confidential case evaluation.
Types of Family Law Appeals
In Georgia, after the trial court renders its decision, either side can appeal as long as they have the right permissions and proper grounds. You can file an appeal in any of the following types of cases:
- Child custody matters
- Equitable distribution of marital property
- Child support
- Domestic violence or child abuse matters
Generally speaking, appeals fall into three basic categories. The type of appeal your lawyer files will depend on which courts are involved and what permissions they need.
- Direct appeals – In child custody matters, the “losing” side may file a direct appeal if they believe the court erred in judgment. While you don’t need permission for a direct appeal, you only have thirty days to file it from the date the trial judge issued the original order.
- Discretionary appeals – Discretionary appeals can go to the Georgia Court of Appeals or the Georgia Supreme Court (whose decision is final). To file a discretionary appeal, you must first seek permission from the higher court. If they accept, they’ll hear the merits of your case and render an opinion on whether the trial court’s verdict was proper.
- Interlocutory appeals – Interlocutory appeals center on orders a judge issues while a case is ongoing. You need permission from both the trial and appellate courts to file them.
Grounds for a Family Law Appeal in Georgia
For the best chances of an appellate court taking your case, you must have grounds for the appeal. In other words, you must show a valid reason for appealing the case. Some possible grounds include the following:
- The trial court did not follow the law when making its decision.
- The trial court did not correctly interpret the facts behind your case.
- The trial court made procedural errors.
- The trial court’s decision is within a legal “gray area,” and you seek clarification of the law.
- You did not have adequate representation.
- The decision stemmed from a conflict of interest.
- The court did not consider critical testimony from a witness.
Standards of Review in Family Law Appeals
Georgia’s appellate courts will select one or more “standards of review” for your appeal. Which standards they choose will determine how much “credit” they’ll give the lower court when reviewing your case. Higher standards mean more deference to the trial court. Lower standards, however, give less respect to the trial court.
The standards of review are as follows:
- Abuse of discretion – The “abuse of discretion” standard is perhaps the most frequently-used standard of review. An appellate court will evaluate the trial court’s adherence to procedural rules. If the trial judge made an egregious enough mistake, the appellate court might determine their final decision was ill-formed. Absent a severe procedural violation, however, they will yield to the trial court.
- De novo – “De novo” comes from a Latin phrase meaning “from the start.” The appellate court will evaluate whether the trial court correctly applied the law. They will not consider the facts of the case.
- “Clearly erroneous” – Where the de novo standard focuses on the law, the clearly erroneous standard focuses on the facts of the case. If an appellate court determines that the trial court misinterpreted the facts, they may overturn the original decision.
How the Appeal Process Works
If you’re the petitioner in an appeal, the process will generally involve these steps:
- Preparing the filing – Your lawyer will explain the trial court’s original decision and the grounds for their appeal, providing appropriate evidence as necessary. Their goal is to convince the appellate court to grant you a certificate of appealability.
- Obtaining copies of transcripts – Transcripts from the trial court proceedings are crucial evidence in any appeal. Your lawyer will work with the clerk’s office to get the needed transcripts and include relevant snippets in their filing.
- Filing notices of appeal – When filing an appeal, you have 30 days to notify the original court of your actions. You may need permission from the trial court before an appeal can continue.
- Drafting arguments and briefs – Your lawyer will prepare a written brief before your “docket date” at the appellate court.
- Attending hearings – At a hearing, your lawyer will give prepared oral arguments and answer questions from at least three appellate judges. The respondent in your case may also attend the hearing and make arguments, so your lawyer should prepare refutations as necessary.
The appellate court’s decision will fall into any of four basic categories:
- The panel declines to grant you a certificate of appealability.
- The judges uphold the trial court’s ruling.
- The judges send your case back to the trial court, perhaps for further clarification.
- The appellate court overturns the trial court’s ruling, marking a successful appeal.
Once a decision is issued, your lawyer will advise you on the next steps.
Consult an Atlanta Family Law Appeals Lawyer
An unfavorable trial court verdict shouldn’t stop your fight for the best outcome. For three decades, the Atlanta divorce attorneys of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC have guided parents and spouses through the appeals process. Our founder, Randall Kessler, has represented high-profile clients, written authoritative legal books, and edited journals for the Georgia state bar. We’re the team that other lawyers turn to for advice, and we’re ready to serve you. Don’t wait to contact us at (404) 688-8810 for a confidential case review.