Appeals in Family Law

At the end of a long, drawn out legal battle, the judge will enter a final judgment. So, how final is that? 

Most family law judgments - whether final or temporary - can be appealed, with most questions now being heard by the Georgia Court of Appeals. On appeal, you can't just argue that you don't like the outcome, or that the judge made the wrong decision - the appellate courts can't just look at the evidence and decide the case on their own. There has to be the right type of error in order to appeal the decision. Once that's been argued to the court, there are a few things the court can do:

  • Affirm - the court of appeals finds that there's no legal basis to change the decision of the superior court, so it stands.
  • Affirm and Sanction - the court of appeals decides that there's no legal error, and that the appeal was filed frivolously. In that case, the appealing party and/or attorney will be sanctioned by the court, by way of ordering a fine or fees against them. 
  • Vacate - the court of appeals finds an error in the superior court's decision, outlines where the error is, and orders that the superior court's decision is thrown out. This leads to...
  • Remand - due to an error or, often, an omission, the decision goes back to the superior court to be corrected. 

    If you're the one appealing the superior court's decision, them affirming is exactly what you don't want, because it means you've spent the time and energy to appeal to no avail. But if they vacate the superior court's decision, you haven't necessarily won. Often, decisions are vacated because the superior court's reasoning wasn't sufficiently detailed in their order. In those situations, the superior court must "reconsider" their order, which typically means including more language in the order, and leaving you where you were when you started. 

So how do you know whether you should appeal? Quite honestly, this is one of those times where you absolutely need a lawyer. Only an experienced attorney can tell you what your likelihood of success is on appeal. If your case has been decided against you, or if your ex is appealing a decision in your favor, a few things to remember:

  • There are very strict time limits for everything after the final decision. If these time limits aren't met, you can lose your right to an appeal or lose the ability to defend against the appeal. 
  • You may be able to use the same lawyer who represented you at trial, if they handle appeals, but you can always hire another attorney. 
  • Appeals aren't always in favor of one side or the other - sometimes one issue will be decided in one party's favor, and another issue in the other party's favor. 
  • You need an attorney for this. While family law cases typically involve your children and/or your life's savings, appeals also involve a level of technical knowledge that's impossible to handle without training, and the appellate courts hold you to that whether you have an attorney or not. If you go in alone, you're stacking the deck against yourself before you've begun. 

If you are considering or facing an appeal, call The Lilly Law Firm at (678) 807-9150 today for a free consultation.