By Family Law Appeals Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
We Can Represent You In Family Law Appeals Anywhere In Florida
Why Appeals Require More Preparation Time Than Family Court Cases
Appeals of divorce, child custody and support or other family court judgments require more preparation than the family court cases themselves. This happens because their procedural rules require more attention to detail and give less leeway for missed deadlines. The District Courts of Appeal also demand a higher level of quality in the briefs, motions, and other documents that appellate lawyers file with the appellate courts. Even the sizes of font and margins on these documents are specified. This premium on quality and detail stems from the fact that almost all appellate arguments are framed in writing. Oral arguments are rare.
This means that, as as a client, you can help expedite your case by preparing to focus on the following three tasks:
(1) Informing Your Appellate Family Lawyer About Your Trial Court Case
If you are hiring a family law appeals attorney after you received an unfavorable final judgment, you must remember that your new lawyer needs time to “get caught up” with the case. There are likely several pleadings, motions, judgements and orders created previous to your hiring of the appellate lawyer. In the beginning, the appellate attorney only needs a small handful of these to become informed.
For example, before I even decide to accept an appellate client, I ask for the following minimum number of documents from the family court case:
(a) the pleadings (the petition, the answer, and, if applicable, the counter-petition),
(b) the final judgment or order that is being appealed and
(c) if one is available, a transcript of the trial.
Fortunately, my appellate clients have been excellent record-keepers. Therefore, I have always received these documents within a couple of days of requesting them. If you want to appeal an unfavorable judgment, but you do not have these documents, you can easily obtain them from the clerk of the court.
(2) Paying the Filing Fee On Time
When preparing to appeal your family court case you should remember that you are solely responsible for paying the family court's clerk a filing fee, along with your notice of appeal. That notice must be accompanied by your payment of the filing fee (which ranges between $250 and $350). If the clerk does not receive an acceptable notice of appeal within 30 days of the issuance of the family court judgment, you waive the right to an appeal forever. Therefore, make sure that you budget enough money to pay both your appellate lawyer and the filing fee.
(3) Filing the Transcript of the Trial Court Proceedings or Writing its Summary
Once your appellate lawyer is caught up to speed and your filing fee is paid, you may have to write a summary of the family court's proceedings unless you hired a court reporter to record a transcript of the the family court trial. Then you can simply designate that court reporter to file the transcript with the family court.
This summary of the family court's proceedings is an objective overview of what happened at the trial. It is not meant to be an argument, nor should it be written in the first person. It would be akin to the “minutes” of a corporate meeting. If your family lawyer was not present at the trial, you are responsible for preparing it.
Without having either a transcript or a summary of the proceedings, the District Court of Appeals will be hard-pressed to find errors that would justify reversing the family court's decision. The only exception to this principle is the rare instance that the final judgment itself contains self-evident reversible errors of law.
How We Can Be Of Service
We can represent you in appeals of divorce, child custody or support disputes, paternity, alimony, prenuptial agreements, domestic violence, DCF child dependency and other family law cases.
If you have any questions about how to prepare to achieve the reversal of a portion of a family court judgment, I encourage you to call us at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial consultation with family law attorney Eduardo J. Mejias.
At the consultation I will listen to the reasons why you believe an appeal is justified. I will then explain the documents that you would have to provide for us to review the trial court case and decide whether or not an appeal is recommended. After that review, if an appeal is recommended and you agree to proceed, I will quote you the attorney retention fee. This will be a fixed fee whose total you will know before signing any contract or making any payment, not an hourly rate.