An appeal is like a second chance, legally speaking. If you are unsatisfied with the results of your case, whether due to a procedural or substantive error by the trial court, an appeal offers a chance to fix mistakes made below. Through the submission of legal briefs to the appellate court, both parties explain why either the trial court’s rulings should be upheld or reversed. Typically, appeals involve more legal research than a trial matter, as the specific issues raised are analyzed closely by the appellate court. Whether you are the one unsatisfied with the results at the trial court and are seeking an appeal, or conversely you are tasked with defending the trial court’s ruling, Artemis Family Law Group can help. Based on our experience prosecuting and defending appeals throughout Florida, we stand ready to represent you in appellate court.
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Frequently asked Questions
This is the core question behind every potential appeal. First, it is important that you understand that being unhappy with the results of a trial or the Final Judgment do not provide valid grounds for appealing. In order to bring a successful appeal, there must be an appealable error or errors. This can be a legal error (applying the wrong statute, applying the right statute incorrectly, etc.) or a factual error (using incorrect numbers in financial calculations, misstating testimony, etc.) or both. Further, just because there is a valid error with the trial court’s process or decision does not end the analysis.
The trial court’s decisions are reviewed by the appellate court with a presumption of correctness. The appellate court will apply what is called a “standard of review” to determine how much deference to provide to the trial court’s decisions. Many family law decisions are within the trial court’s broad discretion.
Additionally, if there is a valid error that may warrant reversal, there is an additional question to ask: Was the error preserved for appellate review? You can rarely complain to the appellate court for the first time about a mistake or issue that you did not first bring to the trial court’s attention, through proper objections, motions, and/or argument. Failure to preserve an error for appellate review will typically result in a failed appeal, regardless of the validity of the underlying issues on appeal. This is why it is very important to ensure that your trial attorney is preserving any errors for appellate review when they occur. Failure to preserve an issue for appeal can rarely, if ever, be remedied on appeal.
Did you file a timely Notice of Appeal (see below)? Is there an appealable issue? Was this issue preserved for appellate review before the trial court? These are all important prerequisites to bringing a successful appeal.
Appeals tend to be rather costly. First, if you are the appellant (the person initiating the appeal, challenging some aspect of the Final Judgment), you are responsible for ensuring that the Record on Appeal is prepared and provided to the appellate court. The Record on Appeal is the written record of all pleadings, motions, responses, affidavits, evidence, transcripts, orders, briefs, etc. that were part of the matter with the trial court. If you are appealing a Final Judgment after a trial, you are responsible for ordering the transcripts from the court reporter. These can be very pricy to obtain, and failure to do so can result in your appeal failing because you did not provide an adequate record to the appellate court.
Yes, but appeals require knowledge of the intricate appellate rules and procedures, as well as a strong grasp of the relevant case law in your district as well as statewide. Appeals also require strong writing skills as much of an appeal comes down to the initial brief from the appellant and the answer brief from the appellee. Frankly, not all trial attorneys possess these special skills. It is not uncommon for a trial attorney to refer a client’s appeal to an appellate attorney because of the specialization required to prosecute or defend an appeal. Your trial attorney may be perfectly competent at appeals but proceed with caution
Rule 9.110(b) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure provides that you have thirty days from the date the Final Judgment is issued to file a Notice of Appeal. The Notice of Appeal simply lets the trial court know of your intention to appeal the Final Judgment and is not a brief on the merits. Failure to file a timely Notice of Appeal will result in permanently foreclosing your ability to appeal the Final Judgment. A Notice of Appeal can later be withdrawn, so if you are mulling over whether to appeal a Final Judgment and are close to the thirty-day deadline, it is prudent to file the Notice of Appeal to preserve your right to appeal. Finally, a common mistake people unfamiliar with the appellate process make is trying to file the Notice of Appeal with the appellate court. It must be filed with the trial court first.