From financial settlements to bitterly fought custody battles, the final decision taken by a judge in a family law case doesn’t always sit well with all parties. And that’s perfectly understandable: after all, families are complex at the best of time, and the life-changing outcomes that can come from a judge’s decision on such matters can be heart-breaking.
When the outcome of a court hearing feels like an injustice, it’s only natural for those unhappy with the result to challenge the decision. Perhaps you feel certain elements of your unique situation weren’t taken into account; maybe you’re worried you won’t be spending enough time with your children or maybe you believe the financial settlement wasn’t fairly calculated.
In any case, there are certain rules you must follow when appealing family law decisions set out in the Family Procedure Rules 2010 or the Civil Procedure Rules, depending on the level at which the original decision was made.
Can you appeal a family law ruling?
Before you can proceed with your appeal, you will have to gain permission from the lower courts or from the court of appeal. In order to be granted permission for an appeal, you must have proper legal grounds upon which to do so – simply believing the judge got it wrong does not qualify as a valid reason to appeal the decision. This can be frustrating for individuals but is necessary in preventing an endless stream of appeals for frivolous cases.
If, on the other hand, you can show that the decision was not the right one as the judge arrived to it due to a serious mistake or because the procedure was not followed properly, you will be able to appeal against the lower court’s decision.
A specialist family lawyer can advise you on your grounds for appeal and determine whether or not you have a viable reason to seek reconsideration on the decision.
How to appeal a family law court decision
The appeals process can be time-consuming and isn’t always possible, but if your lawyer believes you have strong grounds upon which to appeal the decision, they will advise and assist in the preparation of your application. Once with the judge, your application and any supporting documents will be considered to determine whether or not you have permission to appeal. At this stage, the court is not deciding the issues in your appeal, but whether you have a real prospect of success in the appeal.
Should they refuse your application, you can still apply for an oral hearing to argue the case for your permission to appeal. In this scenario, you will have 7 days to request an oral hearing or the refusal will be made final.
If they accept and grant you permission to appeal a final decision, you will have a following 21 days to make your appeal. You will need to send your grounds of appeal along with the appellant’s notice (an FP161 form if the application is to the High Court or an N161 for lower courts) to the court and be clear about why you are appealing.
The success of your appeal is likely to depend on detailed legal and procedural points. This in mind, legal representation through your appeal is recommended in ensuring your case is presented in a manner that will have the best chance of securing your desired outcome.
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