Family Law Appeals
According to Texas law, a lower court’s decision in a family law case can be appealed. Therefore, just as in other types of civil action, an appeal of a final family law order involves asking a “higher” court to review a trial court process and/or decision for errors. This is a distinct legal process from filing a motion for a new trial or filing a motion to correct an error in the trial court’s final order. Each of these alternative approaches asks the trial court to rethink its previous decision. Instead, an appeal asks a higher court to force the lower court to correct an error – whether legal, procedural, or factual – that occurred on the lower court’s watch.
The first and most common place to appeal a family law case is the Texas Court of Appeals system. There are fourteen of these intermediate, or middle, courts in the state. They are located in Amarillo, Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi/Edinburg, Dallas, Eastland, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Texarkana, Tyler, and Waco. Depending on where a trial court is located, any decision handed down by that court will be appealed to one of these courts of appeals.
Family law cases can be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court of Texas, which is also known as the “court of last resort” in Texas. The United States Supreme Court will rarely, if ever, hear a Texas family law case because family matters are considered to be matters of state jurisdiction.
Texas Family Law Appeals Attorney
If you are looking for a qualified Texas family law appeals attorney, you should reach out to Horak Law. With over a decade of legal experience, lawyer Matthew Horak knows what it takes to preserve your legal rights and the best interests of your family.
Call Horak Law at (713) 225-8000 to schedule a free consultation. Horak Law has offices in The Woodlands and Houston, TX.
- What Types Of Family Law Decision Can Be Appealed?
- Initiating An Appeal
- The Appeals Process
- Additional Resources
What Types Of Family Law Decision Can Be Appealed?
First, a trial court must decide the outcome of a case. Generally, parties may only appeal final orders. These types of orders generally dispose of, or resolve, issues brought before the trial court. It is a longstanding traditional legal principle that appeals can only be initiated after a final judgment is entered. However, under certain special circumstances, non-final orders in family law cases may be heard by an appellate court prior to any final order issued in a case. Generally speaking, a party must gain the permission of the trial court to appeal a non-final order, and the judge must explain to the appellate court why the issue in question is in doubt and why resolution before a final order is appropriate.
Generally speaking, appeals can be made on the following bases:
- Procedural error;
- Misapplication of the law; or
- Problems with the lower court’s findings.
Initiating An Appeal
Generally, parties in a family law matter have thirty days from the trial court’s signature on a final order to start the appeals process. Parties may have up to ninety days, however, if the trial court must first resolve a post-judgment motion regarding the judgment. Meeting the deadline for initiating an appeal is crucial. This is because an appellate court is not granted power over the parties or a case until the notice of appeal is filed with the trial court. This is when an appeal is “perfected.” At that point, the appellate court has the authority to decide a dispute, and the lower court loses the authority to act in relation to a case until the appellate court renders its decision.
The Appeals Process
The appellate court will make its determination based on the record and the written and oral arguments of the appellate attorneys. The record is transmitted from the court reporter directly to the appellate courts. This process takes time, and once the record has been transmitted, the first written brief of the appealing party is due within thirty days. The responding party then has thirty days after that to submit a rebuttal. Finally, the appealing party has twenty days to submit its reply brief, which is the final written statement on the matter. Extensions to these deadlines are sometimes permitted.
The Courts of Appeals have the power to issue their own orders to preserve the rights of the parties while the appeal process plays out. The trial court remains authorized to proceed with the underlying matter of the case, with certain exceptions. After appealing, it is very situation-specific whether or not a trial court’s order in a family law case will result in immediate relief or if the trial court’s order will be stayed until the appellate court makes its own final decision. Regardless, the trial court and the appellate court can issue temporary orders during the pendency of the appeal. Temporary orders generally cannot be appealed.
Finally, parties represented by counsel may be allowed (or even sometimes required) to participate in oral arguments before the appellate court. The purpose of an oral argument is to clarify the issues at hand in the case. The judges will generally ask clarifying questions derived from the arguments set forth by counsel.
Appeals may be heard by an assigned panel of three judges, or all the judges of that particular court, which is called a hearing “en banc.” The ultimate decision of the appellate judges may be unanimous or split.
An appellate court will affirm a trial court’s process and decision, essentially saying the trial court did not commit an error, or it will send the matter back to the trial court. If a matter is sent back to the trial court, it could be that the appellate court wants the trial court to simply enter a specific judgment, or the appellate court could force the trial court to rehear part or all of a contested case.
If a party remains unsatisfied with the decision arising from the Texas Courts of Appeals, that party may apply for further appellate review at the Supreme Court of Texas. Otherwise, after the expiration of the period to file a petition for further review to the Supreme Court, the judgment of the Texas Court of Appeals will become final.
Texas Family Code Appeals in Parent-Child Relationship Suits –A statute-based resource concerning family law cases proceeding into the appeals stage.
About The Courts of Texas– This page explains the judicial branch of government in Texas. Particularly useful is the “Court Structure Chart,” which displays the flowchart for appeals of all types of court cases in Texas.
Houston Family Law Appeals Attorney | Harris County, TX
Family law matters such as an appeal often involve a great deal of frustration and heartache. This is why they should be not be taken lightly and require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. To receive quality legal counsel, contact Horak Law.
Texas lawyer Matthew Horak at Horak Law has handled a variety of family court appeals and is equipped to help you navigate your case. Call Horak Law today at (713) 225-8000 or submit an online contact form to schedule your first consultation.
Horak Law has two locations in Houston and The Woodlands, but we also accept clients in Harris County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Waller County, Fort Bend County, and Liberty County, Texas.