Contrary to popular belief, filing an appeal is not as simple as getting a “redo” or “second chance” after a trial concludes. Instead, an appeal asks a higher court to review a case using the exact same information the lower case received in order to identify a legal error that changed the outcome of the case. Attorneys have to approach an appeal with the mindset that they need to underline a legal injustice, not just an unfavorable outcome for their client. As it can be expected, appeals are complicated, and perhaps no more so than when a family law case requires one.
In a recent online issue of Lawyer Monthly, Attorney Matthew Barach shared some of his insight into the complications of family law appeals. (You can view the full article by clicking here.)
Why Family Law Appeals Are So Challenging
To begin, family law attorneys have to first decide if appealing a case would even be worth it. An appeal can take much longer to resolve than the original case, and not many family law clients have the time or resources to pursue it. Also, a successful appeal for one client might be considered a failure by another based on the specifics of their case and their expectations. In other words, an appeal starts off as a bit of a costly gamble with unpredictable payoffs.
Furthermore, appeals in family law do not exactly “freeze” a previous judgement, as an appeal might in other practice areas. Families need to keep living their lives in the meantime, after all. Bringing a case into the appellate process can be emotionally confusing to certain family members, i.e. children, who thought a divorce or family law dispute had ended so they could finally move on. Before deciding to appeal a family law case, the emotional baggage it is sure to bring needs to be weighed.
Of course, with an appeal, there is also the risk of making things worse for the appellant. A higher court could find a legal error with how a family law trial proceeded and concluded, but that does not mean the remedy will be to the appellant’s benefit. For example, a higher court could reverse the lower court’s orders and demand another trial that can end in one of many ways, none of which are promised to be any better than the previous.
Legal Counsel from a Leading Appellate Lawyer
Attorney Matthew Barach authored The Family Law Guide to Appellate Practice as published by the American Bar Association. To say that he knows all the ins and outs of family law appeals is an understatement. If you have a complex family law case that should be remedied through an appeal, then you should come to him and his legal team at Barach Law Group in Wellesley first.