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Family Law Appeals

If you landed on this page as a litigant in your county’s family court, or if you are a family law attorney looking for information about the mechanics of an appeal, we are here to help. Here we have described the process of an appeal and how our firm might be able to assist you.

What is an Appeal? 

An appeal is an application to a higher court to reverse a trial court’s final decision.  

What is a Final Decision? 

This is the trial Court’s final ruling on the issues that were tried before it. Usually, you will find the Court’s final ruling in a file-stamped Judgment or a Findings and Order after Hearing. As long as the orders are final, you can appeal temporary orders, Judgment orders and post-judgment orders. 

What Orders Can I Appeal? 

Appealable orders include the trial court’s final custody, child and spousal support, property division, reimbursements and attorney’s fees orders. 

When Can I Appeal? 

This question is very, very important because if you do not file on time, you will waive your right to appeal. The shortest deadline to appeal is 60 days from the date of service of the Notice of Entry of Judgment. The Judgment contains the final order after a trial. If you receive notice from the Clerk that your judgment is entered, start counting 60 days from the date on that Notice because that’s how much time you have to file your appeal. In the case of appealable orders made pre-trial or post-Judgment, the deadline to appeal will be 60 days from the date of service of the Findings and Order after Hearing, or 180 days from the filing date of the Order, whichever is earlier. 

Can the Deadline to Appeal Be Extended? 

Yes, but in very limited circumstances. If you timely file a motion to vacate or a motion for a new trial, the rules allow an extension to file your appeal until a short time after those motions have been resolved. 

How is the Court of Appeal Different from the Trial Court? 

In the trial court you or your attorney likely called witnesses to testify and offered exhibits into evidence. Your trial may have lasted an hour or several days. You may have had to miss work and pay for childcare. Your trial may have been postponed for one reason or another, leading to a delay in the resolution of your case.  

Things work very differently at the Court of Appeal because it is not a forum to retry your case. Its role is to review the parties’ appellate briefs, the record of what happened in the trial court and the applicable law to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion. Unless oral argument is elected in your case, you will not have to appear at the Court of Appeal. At the end of the case a three-judge panel will issue an Opinion either affirming the trial court’s decision or reversing and “remanding” the case to the trial court to conduct another hearing in line with the legal reasoning in the Opinion.   

Do the Trial Court’s Orders Remain in Effect During the Appellate Process? 

Generally, the trial court’s orders remain in effect throughout the entirety of the appellate process. Exceptions to this general rule include an automatic 30-day stay on an order permitting a child custody move away, and the posting of a bond to stay a financial order. The trial court does have the discretion to stay its orders pending appeal. Until the appeal is over, generally the trial court loses its jurisdiction to change its orders but retains its ability to enforce them.  

How long will the appellate process take? 

The timeframe varies across counties, but you can expect the appellate process to take about 18 months.  

This Seems Complicated. Why Should I Appeal? 

The best reason to appeal is to put the brakes on the trial court’s decision. If you don’t file a timely appeal, the trial court’s decision will stand indefinitely. 

How Can Wilkinson & Finkbeiner Family Law Appellate Attorneys Help Me? 

Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP is comprised of skilled litigation attorneys who devote 100% of their practice to family law. A significant number of our attorneys are Certified Family Law Specialists with at least 10 years of family law trial experience. As a result, we are accustomed to the complexity of cases decided at the Court of Appeal.  We have hundreds and hundreds of combined years of experience, and have experience handling family law appeals in California.

In order to accommodate your budget and in recognition of the complexity of your case, Wilkinson & Finkbeiner Family Law Appellate Attorneys offers three tiers of service: 

*Tier 1 – Full Representation – Our Firm will represent you from the filing of the Notice of Appeal to the end of the case, commencing with a strategy meeting to develop your best arguments on appeal.  

*Tier 2 – Consultation Service – Our Firm will draft and file the documents required by the Court of Appeal and consult with you during the entirety of the process, but you will appear as self-represented on all documents filed on your behalf.  

*Tier 3 – Opinion Letter – To determine whether you have a viable appeal and before you spend your valuable dollars hiring appellate counsel, a Wilkinson & Finkbeiner Family Law Appellate Attorney will review the transcripts of the proceedings and exhibits offered into evidence in your trial and compose an opinion letter analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your case.  

Whether you are going to trial, or in trial, it’s never too early to start thinking about a potential appeal in your family law case. Get the ball rolling with a brief free initial call with one of our Family Law Appellate Attorneys to point you in the right direction.  

Serving all of California’s 58 Counties 

It is important to note that this page is not intended to provide any legal advice and is informational only. There are very strict and important timelines and deadlines for family law appeals in California, so you should contact a qualified appellate attorney immediately if you are considering an appeal. By reviewing this page or simply contacting our office, please be advised that does not create an attorney-client relationship and we will take no action on your behalf.