What Can Be Appealed in 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
Appeal Issues Must Be Relevant To The Case And Both Parties Must Have Notice
Florida’s Rules of Civil Procedure help ensure that trial courts only rule on issues on which (a) both parties have notice and (b) are directly relevant to the outcome of the trial.
I often discuss with my family law clients what issues a trial judge can or cannot consider during a trial. Usually, I am cautioning them that a family law judge will only entertain certain issues that have already been pleaded, or in layman's terms, have been “put on the table”.
In other words, the family law courtroom should not resemble a scene from “Judge Judy”, where the litigants simply reiterate a laundry list of unrelated grievances against each other.
Subjects For Appeals: Final Orders, Time Sharing and Egregious Legal Errors
Likewise, Florida’s Rules of Appellate Procedure delineate what types of orders and judgments can be appealed to the various appellate courts. Here we focus on how family law litigants can have appeals of their trial court orders heard by one of the five Florida District Courts of Appeal. In almost all family law cases, they provide the first level of appellate review.
The District Courts of Appeal primarily hear appeals of “final orders” from the circuit court judge. An order is final for a particular issue if no more “judicial labor” needs to be performed by the circuit court judge on that issue. With some exceptions, only then can it be appealed to the District Courts. Trial rulings usually fall under this category. The “final order” classification is the most common route to the District Court of Appeals. However temporary orders can be appealed under two other categories.
Non-final orders that address time-sharing “rights or obligations” can be appealed These are any orders that establishes rules or guidelines for the time-sharing, child custody or visitation of the parents' children. However, temporary child support orders cannot be appealed.
Finally, a family law litigant may try as a last resort to obtain appellate review of a non-final order through what is known as a writ of certiorari. This writ can only be used for non-final orders that cannot be appealed under the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. To obtain appellate review through a writ of certiorari, the appellant must show that the trial court committed such an egregious legal error that it departed from an “essential requirement of law.”
The five District Courts of Appeal have issued varying opinions on what constitutes a departure from an essential requirement of law. In summary these are: If the trial court (a) applied the wrong law, or (b) violated a party's fundamental right to due process, then it departed from an essential requirement of law and the non-final order can be appealed.
In summary, family law cases, such as divorce, child custody and support, paternity, domestic violence and enforcement of decrees, can be appealed under one of these three categories: (a) final orders, (b) orders of time-sharing of the parent's children or (c) non-final orders, using a writ of certiorari based on that the trial court applied the wrong law or violated the due process rights of the person appealing.
How We Can Assist
If you have questions about whether you can appeal a family law order, call AAA Family Law at 407-260-6001 and schedule a free thirty-minute initial consultation by phone with family law appeals attorney Eduardo J. Mejias or at our Altamonte Springs office. We are just north of Winter Park. AAA Family Law covers all of Florida on appeal cases and the Orlando metro area on cases at the trial court of original jurisdiction.
At the consultation I will briefly review your trial court case and ask what portion of the judgment you would like to appeal. I may be able to decide then whether or not this is a situation where an appeal is likely to be accepted by the District Court or I may have to get back to you with an answer later.
If I decide that this is a case that has a potential for appeal I will give you an assessment of your chances of success. If you decide to proceed with the appeal I will outline the legal plan of action that I intend to follow to protect your interests. Then I will quote you a flat or fixed attorney retention rate before you sign any contract or make any payments.
Our retainer fees for family law appeals of final orders in Florida range between $3,000 and $5,000 depending on their level of complexity. For non-final orders they are between $2,000 and $4,000.
AAA Family Law can represent you in appeals anywhere in Florida in all types of family law cases, such as divorce, child custody and support, paternity, domestic violence and enforcement of court decrees.
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