What To Know About Family Law Appeals

Posted On September 18, 2022 Family Law

Washington law gives you the right to appeal a family law court ruling if you believe it is unfair. However, you must have solid evidence that the judge made a mistake to overturn the ruling.

Appealable Issues

In the separation or divorce process, there are many issues that spouses and/or parents must agree upon or have a judge decide. As a result, one or both spouses may be unsatisfied with the results. An appellate court will typically hear appeals regarding final orders involving property distribution, spousal maintenance, child custody, child support, etc. The appellate court must grant you permission if you are appealing a temporary order granted by a judge. Therefore, there must be a serious error to appeal a judge’s decision on a pending case. For example, if temporary custody was granted to an abusive parent.

Grounds for an Appeal

Filing an appeal is not an opportunity for a re-do in the case. There must be grounds for the appeal and evidence to back it up beside the fact of not agreeing with the judge’s decision. These grounds may include:

  • A mistake in how facts were used in the case. In other words, the judge considered facts that were not important, misunderstood the facts, or the other party failed to disclose certain facts.
  • A mistake with how a law was enforced. The judge did not understand the law or used the law in the wrong way.

Successfully appealing a judge’s ruling can be challenging because the court gives the judge “discretion” to make findings of fact and “fair” decisions, unlike criminal law, where there are laws that the court must absolutely follow. Therefore, the judge’s ruling must have been far from fair to the point that it is considered an abuse of discretion.

Washington Family Law Appeals Process

First, you must file a Notice of Appeal with the trial court and pay the filing fee. The form should include:

  • The party or parties seeking review;
  • Which decision or part of a decision you would like reviewed; and,
  • The name of the appellate court to which the review is being taken.


On the same day you file your appeal, you must also serve a copy of the notice to the other spouse and/or parent. A copy of proof of service must also be filed with the appellate court named in the notice.

Record for Review

You must file pleadings within 30 days of filing the appeal or once your case is granted discretionary review. The pleadings must explain the basis for your appeal, written testimony, exhibits, other documents you filed with the court, and the “report of proceedings.” This is a transcript of the oral argument and testimony previously given in your case. The other spouse and/or parent can also appeal parts of the judge’s decision and file pleadings in response.


A brief, or written argument, on why the judge’s decision was wrong, must be filed within 45 days of the report. The opposing side has 30 days to file an optional responding brief. The appellate court will rule based on your brief or will decide to hold a hearing.

Oral Argument

The Appeals Court may require an in-person hearing in front of three appellate judges. In this hearing, each side’s attorney can make an oral argument.


The Appeals Court will either affirm or reverse the Superior Court’s decision. If either party disagrees with the Appeals Court’s ruling, a motion to reconsider can be filed within 20 days or a petition for review by the Supreme Court within 30 days.

Time Limit on Filing a Family Law Appeal in Washington

In Washington, you have 30 days to file a Notice of Appeal once a temporary or final order is given. A “stay” or delay of an order’s enforcement can also be requested, pending the outcome of an appeal.

Contact a Bellevue Family Lawyer

If you need help with submitting a family law appeal in Washington, don’t wait. Contact an experienced Bellevue family law attorney today. We offer free consultations.

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