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How to Appeal a Child Custody Decision in Court

When a judge makes a child custody decision, it is most often a final determination that is in the best interest of the child. However, these decisions can be appealed in certain circumstances if an error was made and you disagree with the final custody order after a trial.

Here is some information about how to appeal a child custody decision, as well as when this course of action may be taken and what to do if a judge is unfair based upon the facts of your case.

Situations That May Warrant Appeal on a Custody Judgement

Parents have the right to appeal a final custody order on certain grounds in a child custody case. For example, one parent might appeal a decision if the other parent had a prior domestic violence conviction that required counseling but that parent never provided proof of completed counseling sessions. An appeal is most appropriate if a judge made a decision based upon a mistake or error about a factor that no reasonable person would agree with, such as awarding custody to a parent despite evidence of sexual abuse.

Facts to Know About Appealing a Child Custody Decision

In most jurisdictions, an appeal is only possible on final orders, or in other words, when a final decision has been made on the case. Interlocutory, or non-final orders, about child-related issues cannot typically be appealed because parents must usually wait until the court has issued its final ruling first. However, temporary orders may be appealable if you can present an argument that the child is in danger or at risk of harm and expediency is needed.

Appeals can typically only be made 30 to 60 days after a final order is made. They do not allow the introduction of new evidence or testimony, and you typically will not get an opportunity to speak with the appellate court judge regarding the reasons for the appeal.

What Can You Do If a Judge Is Unfair?

If you feel that the judge has been unfair, it is best to re-review the facts of the case with your child custody attorney and determine together what the right course of action is. Requesting a modification, rather than an appeal, may be a better course of action if circumstances have simply changed since the order was finalized. Appeals should only be made after careful consideration and with the expert guidance of an attorney because they can be costly and put unnecessary strain on a family.

The Process of Appealing a Final Custody Order

In general, the appeal process involves a separate court of appeals that will review the transcript of the trial and as opposed to ruling on the facts of the case, will only be responsible for determining if the law was applied properly and if the proceedings were fair. The process is somewhat similar to appealing a final decision in a divorce case, which typically involves filing a notice appeal and a cost bond, serving the notice, deciding to stay execution of the judgment, filing a statement of evidence to justify the appeal, and waiting for further instructions from the court.

If you have been wondering, “Can I appeal a family court decision?” the answer is yes if the circumstances are right. Alatsas Law Firm has experience with appealing child custody decisions and we can advise you if this course of action is in your best interest and in the best interest of your child, as well as what the appeal process will entail for your particular case.

Please contact us to get the process started and allow us to review the details of your child custody case.