Can You Appeal a Decision Made in Family Court?

How to Appeal a Family Court Decision

Family law cases often involve sensitive issues like divorce and child custody, and emotions can run high when the court rules in favor of the other side. Being on the losing side of a family court case can be tough to accept, and many people want nothing more than to dispute the court’s ruling if they believe it to be unjust, untrue, or unacceptable. When someone feels very strongly that the court made the wrong decision regarding its ruling, they may explore filing an appeal.

Can You Appeal a Family Court Decision in Arizona?

Rather than asking, “Can you appeal a decision made in family court?” the better question might be, “Should you appeal a decision made in family court?”

Appealing a decision made in family court can be an option in some cases, but there are many instances when it may not be appropriate, may not be in the interest of the petitioner, or may not even be possible within the confines of Arizona law. Here are some details you should consider before you pursue an appeal.

Appellate Court Deadlines

Court deadlines are tight and strict, and this certainly applies to Arizona family court. If the 30-day time period (which began the date the original judgment was made) has passed, an appeal is no longer an option. This 30-day period includes holidays and weekends, so waiting to file is particularly risky. Many individuals hoping to appeal a family court ruling might miss their opportunity because they just don’t have the time, resources, or understanding of the required court processes that must be appropriately addressed for an appeal to be submitted, much less accepted.

There are many other intermittent deadlines throughout the process that must be adhered to, as well. Missing one submission date can derail all previous efforts, jeopardizing the entire case. An experienced attorney understands the urgency of the court and the appeals process and it is highly recommended that any case up for appeal be navigated by a family law appeals attorney to optimize the chances of a successful appeal.

Motive to Appeal

Another reason that might prompt an individual to reconsider filing an appeal would be if the motivation to do so is not considered justifiable by Arizona law. If the appealing party feels the urge to appeal based on disdain for the judge, the other party’s attorney, or the other party, or just out of spite in general, filing an appeal would essentially be a waste of time and resources.

If the appealing party, however, has legitimate grounds for an appeal, filing might be a good option. It’s ideal to consult with a knowledgeable family attorney in this case because there are other alternatives to an appeal (such as post-decree motions like a Motion to Alter or a Motion to Amend) that may have a better chance of resulting in the desired outcome.

Non-Appealable Court Orders

Arizona only allows appeals on final orders that include a decision regarding determining rights. Even if a decision is called an “order,” it may not be appealable if it is not a final ruling on a party’s rights. These types of cases are referred to as non-appealable orders, and the appellate court has no jurisdiction to hear these cases, nor is it allowed to appeal them. Temporary orders, for example, are not appealable because they do not include a final determination of one’s rights.

Compliance With Court Orders

If someone refuses to follow court orders because they do not agree with them or because they have filed an appeal, Arizona courts will dismiss their request for appeal in most cases. Just because someone does not agree with a court ruling and will appeal it does not mean they do not have to follow those orders in the meantime. Filing an appeal does not grant permission to ignore a court order, but ignoring a court order is grounds for the dismissal of an appeal.

Grounds for Appeal

For an appeal to be heard in the Superior Court of Arizona, there must be legal grounds to support the request for appeal. Most judges will not entertain the idea of an appeal if there is no indication that there is potential for legal grounds.

If a skilled appeals attorney can prove that one of the following grounds for appeal applies to a case there is a better chance of the court hearing your appeal:

  • The original trial was unfair.
  • The opposing side won the case due to misconduct.
  • The judge refused to honor evidence.
  • New evidence was discovered after the fact that would have impacted the outcome of the case.
  • The judge’s ruling was unlawful or made despite evidence.
  • The judge allowed evidence from the opposing side that should not have been admissible.
  • The judgment falls under the “85 Rule.”

What Is the “85 Rule” in Arizona Family Law?

The “85 Rule” in Arizona family law grants relief from a court order or judgment if it is found that the ruling was influenced under pretenses that included a clerical error or a mistake such as an oversight or omission of information discovered after the judgment was made. In these cases, when the error is realized, a motion can be made to amend the judgment based on the corrected information. In many cases, however, the court will rectify the ruling on their own accord, notifying the involved parties of the error as well as any alteration of the original judgment.

Should I File an Appeal?

Court of Appeals

To obtain a better understanding of where a case stands in terms of the court hearing an appeal, anyone considering an appeal may want to answer the specific questions listed below to determine if filing an appeal is feasible. This is another instance in which an attorney who is well-versed in Arizona family court appeals could provide invaluable advice and direction.

Did the court get something wrong, and if so, what?
This question is extremely important, since filing an appeal is similar to filing a complaint against the court and/or the judge. If there is not a definitive and explicit reason an appeal should be granted, it will likely be hard to convince the court to appeal its decision.
What are the odds of success?
In appeal cases that can cite a specific piece of evidence as grounds for an appeal, the odds of success are much better. If there is no solid evidence as to why a judgment should be appealed, the judge will likely not approve the appeal.
Is reversing the ruling worth the cost of filing an appeal?
Consider the payoff even if the desired result is not achieved (i.e. if the appeal is denied). If the consequences of losing an appeals case would cause more trouble than the order if it is left as-is, sometimes it is more practical to call off an appeal.
What will the timeline be for the appeal, and how will it impact those involved?
The appeals process, including waiting on the final decision, could take up to six months. Determining what the situation might require during those months and predicting the effect it will have on others involved in the case, including children, is a responsible consideration when deciding whether to file an appeal.

Pros and Cons of Filing an Appeal

For anyone still deciding whether filing an appeal of a family court decision is possible, below are some pros and cons of appeals that may help shed light on the wisest decision. It is important to remember that each unique situation is defined by its own set of parameters, circumstances, history, and consequences that ultimately affect whether an appeal is a good choice.

Benefits of Filing an Appeal

The most evident benefit of appealing a court ruling is the chance to receive a more favorable outcome, which is representative of the fairness that justice embodies. Of course, this is also the most evident disadvantage of filing an appeal, as well. When justice achieves its purpose, the correct decision will prevail. This is not always in favor of the appealing party, and this is the chance one takes to spend the time, effort, and resources on appealing a family court ruling.

Another advantage of appealing is having the peace of mind that comes with fighting for what is believed to be rightly deserved, whether successful or not. This eliminates the opportunity for regret.

The Downsides of Filing an Appeal

The major disadvantages of fighting an appeal, especially when the request is denied, are the loss of time and money and the emotional stress the appeal process requires. This is why it is important to weigh all of the information and determine if an appeal is worth the battle and the resources, even if the appeal is denied in the end.

Filing an Appeal Goes Beyond the Individual

Filing an appeal

When someone files an appeal, they are challenging the court and putting the judge under scrutiny. The ability and competence of a judge to perform their job is often highlighted as the underlying question. Judges take their jobs seriously, and thus, a successful appeal means they did not do something right while performing their job duties.

Therefore, what filing an appeal means for everyone involved should be carefully considered and viewed through the filter of a professional, legal advisor. The ability to appeal should not be taken for granted or abused. There is always a trade-off, and the result should be worthy of the efforts and sacrifices required by all those involved.

In the end, it is up to the judge to make the final decision to appeal a ruling based on a re-evaluation of the case. If the judge finds that there was a misapplication of the law, some degree of falsehood within the presentation of evidence, fraud imparted by one party, or some other legal grounds for concern, then the appeal will be granted. Judges want to do the right thing for the families and citizens over whom they preside. When someone challenges a judge, the judge takes the situation seriously and puts every effort into providing a fair and just judicial system that ultimately rules in favor of the right side. Only then will the outcome truly be the best for all involved.

Speak to an Attorney About Filing an Appeal

Speak to one of our attorneys about your appeal

If a family court ruling is believed to be wrong, unfair, or based on false pretenses, an appeal is the system’s solution to these types of situations. However, getting the court to hear an appeal is not easy. It is a process that is made difficult by design to ensure the system is not taken advantage of. For that reason appeals are best handled by a family law attorney. When someone has legal representation throughout their case, not only do they have the benefit of guidance assistance and legal advice, but they also have the chance to optimize the outcome and increase the chances of getting their appeal accepted.

The Valley Law Group family law attorneys have experience in appellate court cases and can offer sound advice on the likelihood of a granted appeal. Contact The Valley Law Group and schedule a free consultation with one of our reputable and experienced family attorneys.

Post Navigation

Get Free Consultation