Appealing or Rehearing Family Law Cases

By Florida Family Law Appeals Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias

Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2005

AAA Family Law Can Represent You In Family Law Appeals Anywhere In Florida

To Appeal or To Rehear, That Is The Question

A prospective family law appeal client once asked me why I would not consider filing a motion for a rehearing of his trial court case instead of appealing his final divorce judgment. In his case, the fifteen-day deadline for a filing the motion for a rehearing had expired. However, his question did raise a broader issue: When an appeal is justified (see What Can Be Appealed in Family Law Cases) why appeal instead of seeking a rehearing first?

Appeal When Justified

First it is important to understand the rules that govern motions for rehearings, under (1.540, of Florida Rules of Civil Procedure).  They are designed for rehearings of jury trials. But they also allows parties to bypass filing a motion for a rehearing of a non-jury trial (which applies to all family law cases) and to simply appeal its resulting final judgment.

Every appellant wants a reversal of some portion of the final judgment and wants it as quickly as possible. It is true that a client of a family law attorney may file a motion for a rehearing prior to filing a notice of appeal. And it makes sense for a litigant to seek the “second opinion” of the judge that reviews a jury’s verdict through a motion for a rehearing. But, in family law, where there is no jury, this turns out to be a waste of time and resources on a motion that the trial judge will almost certainly deny. 

How wise is it to ask a family law judge to question the wisdom of his or her own findings?  How often do you think a family law judge will concede having made a factual or legal error?  Since I started in 2005 practicing exclusively as a family law attorney in appeal and trial court cases, I have never witnessed a family law court reverse its own final judgment because of a motion for a rehearing. This is why I advice to appeal when it is justified and not motion for rehearing, with this exception:

Rehear When There Is A Pertinent Event Between The Trial And the Final Judgment

In the rare situation where pertinent events (such as an involuntary reduction in my client's income) occurs between the trial and the actual entry of the final judgment, appeal courts have held that trial courts may grant a rehearing and modify or reverse its judgment.

But if these events happen after the entry of the final judgment, they become “substantial changes in circumstances” and the litigant must file a petition for modification, not a motion for a rehearing.

How AAA Family Law Can Assist

If you are considering appealing a family law final judgment or order, please call AAA Family Law at 407-260-6001, and schedule, by phone or in person, an initial consultation with attorney Eduardo J. Mejias.  At the consultation:
  • you will inform me about the trial court case you seek to appeal,
  • I will give you a my opinion on the merits of the appeal and its chances for success (possibly subject to further research after the consultation) and 
  • If both we agree on proceeding with the appeal, I will quote you a fixed attorney retainer fee (not an hourly rate) whose total you will know before signing a contract or making any payment.

Our retainer fees for family law appeals of final orders in Florida range between $3,600 and $6,000 depending on their level of complexity.  For non-final orders they are between $2,400 and $4,800.  See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees for more information.

Your family law appeal could be related to final trial court judgments on divorce issues, such as alimony, child custody or support, property distribution and relocation with children, or to paternity matters, interpretation of prenuptial agreements, enforcement of the court's decrees, court rulings on cases related to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) or other family law issues.