Child custody disputes can quickly become complex, and emotions run hot as parents battle for their preferences. Unfortunately, a decision could leave one or both parties dissatisfied.
When facing an unfavorable ruling from a lower court, the option of appealing might resolve the situation.
The start of the appeals process
A child custody appeal begins when one party seeks a review by the Texas Appeals Court concerning a decision that a lower court made, including Family Courts. The state has 14 courts of appeals, each with a chief justice and at least two other justices to review and handle such matters.
The driving force behind an appeal is the belief that the lower court committed a legal error. Importantly, this process is not merely an opportunity to repeat the trial. Rather, an appeal serves as a mechanism to correct legal missteps.
Like all legal matters, the appeal follows a structured process, requiring careful adherence to timelines and legal procedures. If the superior court deems an appeal necessary, the appellant must file a notice with the trial clerk within 30 days of the decision.
Next, a docketing statement must go to the appellate court. The trial court clerk and reporter then compile and dispatch the case record to the appellate court.
Within the next 30 days, the appellant submits a brief and related documents, breaking down why the family court decision had legal flaws. The opposing party has 30 days to respond with an opposition brief and an additional 20 days for a reply. There is also the option to request an oral argument before the appellate court, though the court can opt to decide the case without oral arguments.
Grounds for appeal and the “abuse-of-discretion” standard
Texas higher courts employ an “abuse-of-discretion” standard when assessing whether a custody order requires a modification on appeal. This standard deems that a trial court abused its discretion if it acted arbitrarily, unreasonably or without reference to guiding principles or rules.
The appellate court carefully reviews both factual and legal aspects, searching for a noticeable legal error to favor the party appealing. After this rigorous process, the appellate court issues a decision, which may involve upholding the trial court’s ruling, reversing it or remanding the case for new proceedings.
Clearly, the appeals process is not simple, so those who want to push for an appeal must navigate the situation carefully to increase the odds of success.