At times, despite even the best of efforts, someone may leave family court dissatisfied with the resolution put in place. It is easy to see why this is the case as family law matters concern what most people care about the most: children, property, and financial security. Fortunately, if you feel your case outcome was unfair, you have another available recourse: to appeal to a higher court. The state of Missouri gives you the right to appeal a family court decision to the court of appeals in your district. When this happens, if the appellate court finds your case outcome was not fair, it can reverse it or send it back to trial court.
What Is an Appeal?
An appeal happens when one party believes that their case outcome was unfair in some manner, so he/she asks a higher court to review this decision. Only final orders, or orders where a judge reaches a final, complete decision, can be reviewed.
When you request an appeal, the higher court that will review your case will look at all the evidence and documents that were presented in your initial case. It is important to note that you cannot introduce new evidence or testimony. You also cannot re-do your trial.
Grounds for an Appeal in Family Court
To ensure your case can be appealed and make sure you have the legal support you need before going through this process, it would be beneficial to consult with a seasoned family lawyer. Here are some grounds for an appeal in family court:
Judge Made an Error of Law
What this means is that the judge appointed to your case applied the wrong law to your case. This could happen if a trial court did not follow the law when coming to a decision about your case. For instance, child custody matters in Missouri rely on the best interest of the child standard. If a court makes a custody determination without considering these factors, you could make an appeal.
Evidence Proves Otherwise
If the judge made a decision that does not make sense considering the evidence and facts presented during trial, you may have grounds to make an appeal. A judge’s ruling needs to be based on the facts proven at trial. If there is nothing supporting a judge’s ruling for your case, then it is possible that the judge could have made an error.
Judge Abused His/Her Power
A judge has a responsibility to avoid misusing his or her power. If a judge does something that is beyond the discretion that the court is allowed and this affects the judge’s ruling or decision-making ability, this could be considered grounds for an appeal. For example, when using the best interest of the child standard, a judge could assign different weights to each factor, making one factor weigh more.
To prove abuse of power or discretion happened at your trial, you must show that the judge’s error was obvious or that it is clearly an abuse of discretion. In general, an appeals court will defer to a trial court judge’s decision where discretion is allowed.