Family court verdicts don’t always go the way individuals want them to. Instances of parental alienation and other psychological disturbances from one parent can too often shroud the court from what is really going on within a family. When children are involved who are too young to speak for themselves, it is left to the parent to advocate for them. However, when it’s one parent’s word against another’s, the court sometimes gets it wrong.
When the court hears the voice of an abusive parent who paints a picture of the situation that presents lies and deceit and makes reality out to be something it is not, it can be emotionally debilitating for those loved ones watching such a scenario unfold. It doesn’t have to be the end of the fight, however.
What Is Psychological Abuse?
Domestic abuse does not always take the form of physical violence. In many instances, psychological abuse is used to control spouses and children unbeknownst to outsiders. The environment for victims of this type of abuse can be just as dangerous as an environment of physical violence, and it can be just as hard for victims to leave a situation of psychological abuse as it is to leave one of physical abuse.
Unfortunately, the two often go hand in hand. Sometimes, though, the abuser leaves no physical evidence of the harm they are causing. In some cases, the abuser may not even be aware of the full extent of harm they are causing because these wounds are not visible. However, just because they are not visible doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
What if an Abuser Wins a Family Court Case?
When a victim of psychological abuse tries to leave, the psychological abuser may continue to exert control over the situation even if the family separates. If matters end up in family court amid divorce proceedings or as a result of a custody battle, oftentimes, the abuser doesn’t want anyone to know the extent to which they have controlled the environment within the home. They will go to great lengths to paint a picture that is in stark contrast to the reality their family has experienced.
They may even turn the tables and make accusations toward the other parent, reporting that the child’s other parent is, in fact, the abusive party, whether their accusations be of physical abuse, verbal abuse, or mental abuse. They may even fabricate evidence to prove their claims. Their attempts to cover up their own contributions to the problems within the family home may even lead them to misrepresent evidence or present evidence taken out of context to make them look like the better parent.
When this happens, it can feel like the abused parent is living a bad dream. If the court rules in favor of the abuser, it can feel even worse. The effects involvement with family court can have on a person is enough to push the stress limits of anyone. If one party is experiencing false accusations and misrepresented truths, it’s even more burdensome.
When it’s finally over, these individuals may feel the release of that burden, but when the verdict of a court order detrimentally places a child with an abusive parent, at the same time, it becomes a whole new nightmare.
Barriers to Appeals Abuse Victims May Face
Alienated parents often feel defeated and confused, wondering what their child’s other parent is telling the child. Living life after a family court verdict gone wrong can be a lonely and depressing time. The only hope these parents have is to appeal the court’s decision and attempt to uncover the truth.
Too often, though, a victim of psychological abuse is mentally drained and doesn’t feel they have the mental capacity to fight anymore. They accept defeat and try to move on, despite the hole that is left in their life, with what little strength they have left. All too often, these parents begin to believe the falsehoods perpetuated by the abuser, which convince them to end the fight.
Some of these may include the following:
- Their abuser has convinced them they are not important to their child’s well-being.
- Their abuser has threatened harm to the child or the other parent.
- The parent has convinced themselves that it’s too much for their child to go through another court case.
- The parent is convinced the child would be better off without having to deal with the conflict of the parents.
- The other parent has enacted a protective order against them, and they feel they have no other option but to stay away.
Sometimes, parents give up with the hope that when their child grows up, they will discover the truth, and then they can reconnect and have a relationship with their child again. Unfortunately, though, the psychological abuse doesn’t end for the child when they turn 18; after living with the abuse for years, children have not been allowed to think for themselves and may have a skewed sense of reality. It may take them the rest of their life to break down the misconceptions they grew to adopt as truths, and as a result, it may be much later in life when they finally accept the truth.
Appealing a Family Court Ruling
Realistically, the chances of winning an appeal in family court are difficult but not impossible. In order to appeal a court order, you must secure a hearing with an appellate court. Obtaining this hearing is difficult, and being granted a hearing is a small feat in itself. Even then, though, appellate courts rarely overturn the original court-ordered ruling.
There are very specific grounds upon which an appeal request is accepted and even harsher requirements for an appeal to be successful. These cases must be handled with great care. It takes a skilled family law attorney to go over the facts of the original case very carefully, scrutinizing every detail, to find grounds for a retrial and assert that there is a possibility for a different outcome to be achieved. For this to happen, the attorney must effectively argue that justice was not properly served or applied to the case.
Hiring an experienced appellate family law attorney with strategic problem-solving skills and legal techniques is essential. They must be willing to devote the amount of time and effort necessary to fully understand the case and present it in a different light to the court. After thoroughly considering the details of a case and discussing the potential for an overturned ruling with a qualified legal representative, if an individual makes a decision to appeal a court order, they must understand that these cases can take time. In fact, successful appeals take much longer than unsuccessful appeals.
How Can I Be Granted an Appeal Hearing?
In order to get an appeal hearing, the requesting parent must show that a clear legal error was made by the court in the original trial that led to an erroneous verdict or unfair trial. Some ways in which this is possible are by proving the wrong set of legal standards was applied to a specific piece of evidence, proving the court missed a step in a statutory analysis, or proving the court made a decision that was obviously contrary to the evidence presented in the original trial.
Due to the fact that a family court ruling is rarely overturned in Arizona, it is imperative for anyone in this situation to speak with an attorney who has experience in appellate court and has successfully received an overturned court ruling on these types of matters.
Furthermore, there’s no time to wait to appeal a family court’s decision. Generally, Arizona law requires appeal paperwork to be completed, signed, submitted, and filed with the court within 30 days after the original court order was made. If extenuating circumstances can be proven that prevented the timely completion of this crucial step in the process, an extension of the 30-day deadline can be requested via petition.
Once the deadline has passed, though, the choice to request an appellate hearing is no longer an option. In some cases, there may be the alternative of pursuing a modification to a court order or, if the ruling was part of a divorce settlement, a modification to the marital settlement agreement.
The Modification Process
If appealing a court order fails, or if an individual does not feel it is the right option for their case, another option may be to request a modification to a current court order that they believe is not in the best interest of the child. A modification is a completely different process than an appeal. An appeal is a legal process with the primary goal of requesting and obtaining a do-over for a new trial based on the misapplication of laws, falsely or misrepresented evidence, fraud, deception, or other legal issues in the original trial.
A modification, however, need not be submitted within 30 days following a court order like an appeal must be, and it is requested on the premise that the situation or circumstances of one or more of the parties named in the court order have changed since the initial court ruling was made. Furthermore, modifications may be requested at any time, even years following the original ruling, and they do not require prolonged or extensive court proceedings to be granted.
How Can a Family Attorney Help Change My Family Court Outcome?
If a parent believes they were wrongly represented in a trial and received a verdict based on misrepresented evidence, their best resource is to speak with a qualified family law attorney who can offer sound advice for their unique circumstances. Every case is different, so what applies to one case may not apply to another. This is why it’s so important to consult with a legal professional about these matters.
Speaking with a lawyer can provide insight and a fresh perspective on matters, even if they did not recently happen. Many times, parents go for some time before regaining the strength to start to fight again to regain visitation rights or custody rights.
Victims of psychological and domestic abuse are often afraid to step forward. They may fear the child will endure harm from the other parent or be negatively affected in some way by the conflict that will likely accompany a custody battle. It is crucial that these parents speak with a family law attorney about their situation. There is great value in an objective, neutral, and unaffiliated party providing insight and advice on a situation, especially when that advisor has knowledge and experience with similar situations.
Is There an Alternative to a Lawyer’s Advice?
Discussing the situations with friends and family alone can give an unrealistic perspective that is swayed by emotions and close proximity to the situation. In addition, it may appear that the child is seemingly safe and happy as viewed on social media by mutual connections. These acquaintances may become the only insight into the life of the child in such instances when protective orders prevent one parent from even following their child’s other parent or their child on social media.
These opinions, however, are often filtered by misrepresented impressions, and the mutual connections may also be experiencing psychological abuse or being misled to believe things are fine when they’re not. While friends and family members who claim to be neutral in situations involving two opposing parents may have good intentions, the viewpoints and advice they offer may not be in the alienated parent’s or their child’s best interests.
Reach Out to The Valley Law Group for Assistance in Your Appeal
The Valley Law Group encourages anyone involved in a similar situation to those described here to contact our offices for a legal consultation regarding your case. Speaking with an attorney and learning how the laws apply to the situation can change everything if you have previously been misguided in your pursuit to reconnect with and protect your child.
Reach out to our firm for help with your family law appeal as soon as possible.
Jonathan Roeder, Founder/Director of Marketing of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.