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Appealing Family Law Rulings

Be aware that in some Texas counties, “Associate Judges” are allowed to preside over family law cases. Generally, when an Associate Judge presides over a temporary or a final family law hearing, a District Judge must subsequently sign their order. When an opposing party is upset with an Associate Judge’s ruling, they may request what is termed a “de novo” hearing. A de novo hearing is a blank slate, a new hearing.

This circumstance, unfortunately, harms numerous well-meaning clients who received good results in their initial hearing but may not have the funds to pay their attorney to, in effect, do it all over again. We at Izzo & Associates, PLLC, always analyze each of our client’s case facts, considering this possible eventuality to determine when and if a Temporary Orders Hearing is actually necessary or advisable.

In addition, our family law attorneys always make the sound determination when we file original pleadings in every case, whether we want to include an objection to the appointment of an Associate Judge to preside over a final hearing in said case. Be aware, however, that such an objection will generally not be effective in prohibiting the appointment of an Associate Judge to preside over any Temporary Orders hearings scheduled.

The Filing For An Appeal

The decision of whether or not to file an appeal of a family law final ruling involves numerous considerations, including the specific facts presented to the court and their relationship to the judge’s ruling, availability of funding, locating experienced appellate counsel, and the willpower to withstand a continuing multiyear battle. The appellate process is extremely costly, and even the act of purchasing trial transcripts (termed the appellate record) can be very expensive. In addition, expert knowledge of correct timetables and the substantive and procedural criteria necessary to perfect an appeal, as well as understanding exactly what kind of orders may be appealed, are all critical.

Commonly Appealed Rulings

Final Modification, Enforcement, Divorce, and SAPCR rulings generally can be appealed. The subject of such appellate challenges may involve a final result that you believe was incorrectly decided, including such matters as child visitation, child support, custody, parental rights, spousal support, and property and debt division, in divorce cases. As long as the legal criteria are present and specific procedures are followed, most family law matters can be appealed, but overturning a Family Law judge’s opinion is difficult.

Defending You Against An Appeal

Quite often, a trial counsel is intimately involved with drafting and/or aiding an appellate attorney when an opposing party files a notice of appeal after a family law case. When an appeal is requested, the trial judge may be required to execute what is termed as “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.” Under such circumstances, the trial judge will often request the prevailing party’s counsel to draft said document and provide it to the trial court for review and submission.

The preparation of Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law involves outlining the facts of the case, which were presented to the court at the trial, and the court’s rationale for then rendering the final order. Quite often, trial counsel is of great assistance to an appellate attorney in preparing to prosecute or defend an appellate challenge, as trial counsel was present for the actual trial and has firsthand knowledge of the evidence introduced and rulings made.

Grounds To Reverse A Final Order

An “Abuse of Discretion” can be found by an appellate court. Such a finding asserts that the trial judge issued a ruling that was incorrect, unreasonable, or unjustified by the facts of the specific case or the law. It should be noted, however, that family law trial judges are generally granted a great amount of discretion when making their decisions.

An appellate court could determine that the trial court made an “Error of Law.” This would be based on the consideration that the lower court had not applied the correct legal standard to utilize in its ruling. An appellate court has the power to reverse the trial court’s ruling.

“Findings that are Against the Great Weight of the Evidence” could be found to have occurred if a lower court ruling was considered to be contrary to the vast majority of the evidence presented at trial. In other words, the judge’s ruling was considered to be inaccurate. Do remember, however, as stated above, that a trial judge is referred to as the ‘trier of fact” because they are considered to have been in a better position to have determined the truthfulness of witnesses, etc., than the appellate court, which can only review “the Dry Record.”

Navigate Appeals In Confidence

Please give us a call at 512-982-1161 to set up a free phone consultation or contact us online when you are seeking experienced trial counsel. Even if your case is in the post-trial stage and you need a recommendation for an Austin-area appellate attorney, we will be glad to help. Over the decades, we have worked diligently with numerous experienced family law appellate law firms.