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