Family legal matters in Texas are often resolved through litigation, which means that a judge will make the final decision about issues such as child custody and spousal support. If you’re unhappy with the court’s decision regarding your divorce judgment, you may have grounds to appeal, under limited circumstances. Here are 3 steps to take to appeal family law rulings in San Antonio.
Grounds for Appealing Family Law in San Antonio
In most cases, the law favors final judgments made by the lower courts. However, when it comes to issues such as spousal support, child custody, or property, you can appeal the decision based on “an abuse of discretion.”
An abuse of discretion means that the court made a mistake in their decision because they failed to follow proper procedures and rules, did not appropriately apply the law, or acted unreasonably in some way. In other words, an appellate court won’t review your case simply because you don’t like the ruling. There must be a genuine question as to whether the court made their decision in a fair, legal, and unbiased manner.
This is where a family law attorney will be invaluable. If you don’t understand your divorce decree, Espronceda Law can review the decision and help you determine if there was an abuse of discretion. If we feel there was, we can help you file the proper documentation and argue for a new trial or decree.
Step #1 — File a Notice of Appeal
The first step to filing an appeal is to file a notice with the courts. This literally puts them on notice that you’ll be appealing your divorce decree. This notice must be filed within 30 days after the divorce decree is issued.
This means that as soon as your decree is issued, you need to review it carefully and ensure that it makes sense to you. If you don’t understand how the judge came to their decision or feel that a mistake may have been made, call our offices immediately so we can timely file the notice of appeal. If you miss this narrow window, you will miss the opportunity to appeal the decision altogether.
Step #2 — Prepare a Detailed Complaint of the Issue You Want Reviewed
The next step is to prepare a very detailed complaint to file with the appellate court. This is the document that allows you to explain exactly why you feel the divorce decree should be withdrawn or changed. When preparing your complaint, it’s critical to remember that the court is uninterested in the facts of your divorce. They don’t care about the grounds for divorce, how long you were married, etc. The appellate court only wants to know if there was a problem with the lower court’s proceedings and the judge’s decision-making process.
Your complaint should clearly outline the abuse of discretion made by the lower courts.
One important note here is that child custody issues are a bit different. If you or your ex-spouse’s circumstances change after the divorce decree, you can file for a change in child custody orders. In other words, you won’t necessarily file an appeal of the original decree. Instead, you would file asking for an adjustment based on new events and conditions.
Step #3 —Send in Supporting Documentation
Because your goal is to prove that the lower courts made a legal error, it’s critical that you provide supporting documentation. Simply stating that you think the decision was unfair won’t cut it. You must show that the lower court made an error in their decision-making process. This often involves complex legal research and an understanding of Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Family law appeals in Texas are rare but sometimes genuinely valid and necessary. If you feel that your divorce decree was made in error, you have a short window of time in which to seek help and appeal the decision. Call our offices for a free consultation today.