Appeal of a Family Court Decision 101

Obtaining a divorce can be very emotional. Often, a judge is making a decision about your family without being fully aware of the dynamics involved. If a judge makes a decision you are unhappy or uncomfortable with, you have the right to an appeal.

How Appeal of a Family Court Decision Works

An appeal occurs when one party to a case asks a higher court to review the decision of a lower court, such as the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Division. When this occurs, the court can only review final orders, one where the judge reaches a final decision on a matter, such a custody arrangement rendered in the Final Judgment of Divorce. However, if the decision is reached via motion and the Final Judgment has not been rendered, then the litigant may first file a motion for reconsideration with the lower court within 20 days of receiving the decision. See Rule 4:49-2. If a final decision is not rendered and the motion for reconsideration does not change the outcome, then the next step is to file a motion for an interlocutory appeal. Basically, you make a request to the appellate court to file an appeal, even though your matter is not finalized. It is up to the appellate court as to whether they hear an interlocutory appeal.

If you have a final judgment or order in a family matter and there are no other outstanding issues, then you have a right to file a Notice of Appeal within 45 days of the entry of the judgment or decision. A case may have grounds for an appeal when it is based on errors in procedure, insufficiency of the evidence, or other specific legal errors committed by the court during your case. It is important to remember, when it comes determining the facts of the case, the appellate court often defers to the family court due to their expertise in family law.

Once the appellate court hears the appeal, the decision will follow one of three options; affirm the lower court’s decision, reverse the lower court’s decision, or reverse the lower court’s decision and remand the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. The appellate court does not retry the case. They review the transcripts from the first case, sometimes hear oral arguments, and render one of the decisions previously mentioned. If the case is remanded back to the lower court, there will most likely be a new hearing by the lower court regarding the issue.

If you or someone you know is considering an appeal of a family court decision, please contact the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, P.C. For a free consultation, please contact us online or call us at (908) 575-9777.