Are Florida Family Law Appeals Worthwhile?

By Florida Family Law Appeals Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias

Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011

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



Is The Appeal Worthwhile?

With a family law appeal we always face the question of whether it are worthwhile in terms of the time and money that they require.
  
It is tempting for lawyers to give an optimistic answer to this question in order to get the prospective client to contract them. But I have valued honesty over salesmanship in my law practice since I started in 1999.  So if your come to me with an appeal case that is not likely to succeed, overly time-consuming, or too expensive, I will let you know.

Appeals require much more pre-evaluation than most trial court cases. This is because the  appellate process is infused with a high level of deference to the trial court’s findings, particularly its factual findings. This is part of the principle of res judicata, in Anglo-American jurisprudence, meaning that what has been decided is unlikely to be reconsidered. Many of my prospective clients struggle with this concept. However, after a brief explanation of the reasons why the law favors stability, they usually understand.

These are the three most important considerations when it comes to answering the question of whether or not a family law appeal is worthwhile:

How Badly Did The Trial Judge Err?

The severity and nature of the family law judge’s mistakes determine the odds of success in an appeal. Generally, procedural errors are easier to overturn because they usually impact a litigant’s due process rights. Instances when the judge applied the incorrect legal standard also will be viewed more harshly by the appellate court.
 
On the other hand, how a judge weighed the evidence receives much greater deference from the higher court. Appellate judges realize that the trial judge, not them, observed the demeanor of the parties and witnesses. This is why appellate courts only reverse factual determinations that constitute an “abuse of discretion”. In short, the more the appeal relies on legal errors instead of factual ones, the more likely it will lead to a reversal.

How Long Will It Take?

Appeals do not operate on a fixed schedule. The drafting and exchanging of the briefs takes 3 to 4 months. Once the appellate court has received all of the briefs, it will take however long it needs to issue an opinion. Based on my experience, that is usually 2 to 6 months.

Furthermore, the appellate court may reverse the trial court but also remand (send back) the matter to the trial court for a reconsideration of one or more issues. While this is still good news, it will prolong the final resolution a few more months. Knowing this, family law clients must decide whether they can wait that long before getting any relief. Appeals require patience.

How Much Will It Cost?

AAA Family Law charges thr following attorney retainer fees for family law appeals: (a) final orders, $3,600 to $6,000, (b) non-final orders, $2,400 to $4,800. The actual fee within these ranges depends on the complexity of the case. This is a relatively low figure compared to other law firms that can charge as much as $10,000 for these appeals. There is also a District Court court filing fee of between $250 and $300.  See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees for more information.

Still, for most American, even the AAA Family Law appellate retainer is a major expense. In a time-sharing child custody issue, cost is less of a factor because a parent’s relationship with a child cannot be quantified by a dollar amount.

However, if the trial judge established the wrong child support or alimony amount, or apportioned too much of the equitable distribution of asset minus liabilities to the opposing party, the cost-benefit analysis becomes much clearer. In the latter scenario, to proceed with an appeal, its cost needs to be substantially lower than the potential financial gain one would realize with a reversal.

How to Get Help

If you are considering filing an appeal, I encourage you to call me, Eduardo Mejias,  AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial consultation at on the phone or at our Altamonte Springs office. At the consultation I will: (a) ask you to explain your case and your reasons for considering it, (b) evaluate its likelihood to succeed and give a recommendation on how to proceed and (c) quote you a fixed attorney retention fee, not an hourly rate whose total you cannot predict.  In cases (b) and (c) it may require doing some research after the consultation before getting back to you.