Houston Divorce Appeals Lawyer
Would You Like to Appeal an Element of Your Divorce Case?
Appellate law is a particularly challenging legal field, and one that few attorneys choose to specialize in due to the sheer difficulty of overturning rulings in the Texas court system and elsewhere in the country. An enormous amount of additional research, writing, and filing is required for a successful appeal, and many attorneys are simply not willing to take on these extra tasks in order to protect a client’s rights and interests against an unfair ruling in a lower family court.
At Diggs & Sadler, our legal team understands the frustration that can come with a ruling that fails to fully reflect the reality of your case, and we can utilize our full legal resources to help you reach a desirable outcome in your family law case.
To learn more about your rights and legal options after an unfavorable ruling, contact our Houston divorce appeals lawyers today at (713) 766-5355.
Why You Need an Appeals Lawyer
If you believe a divorce judge made a crucial error in your divorce case or abused the law, you may file an appeal. This is typically a complicated process. Anyone who intends to appeal a trial judge’s ruling needs to seek advice from a legal professional with extensive knowledge of the appellate law process immediately after receiving the unfavorable ruling as there are strict deadlines to preserve your right to appeal. This requires the help of an experienced family law attorney.
The appellate court’s rules and procedures are vastly different than other rules and procedures of the court. Appellate law requires a skilled attorney who can create the necessary legal briefs, petitions, and arguments that meet the strict criteria of the court. In addition, your attorney can advise you in your particular legal situation as it relates to your case, as well as help you understand the complex decisions that are involved with the appeals process.
Types of Family Law and Divorce Appeals
You may appeal nearly any family law decision, whether it involves issues of division of property, grandparent's rights, or disputes regarding alimony or child support. Regardless of the issue at stake, the standard for overturning a family law decision is to prove that there was an abuse of discretion by the court or grave error by the court. It is also important to note that appellate decisions often take many months to obtain.
The most common appeals include:
Property Division Issues
In a divorce case, property is usually divided by the court based on a number of factors, including but not limited to:
- The fault in the breakup of the marriage
- The education and training of each spouse
- The earnings potential of both spouses
- The physical health of each spouse
- The amount of separate property owned by each spouse
Texas is a community property state, which means the court assumes that all assets acquired during the marriage are equally owned, and then the court will divide property and assets in a manner they find to be just and right, based on a variety of factors, some of which are listed above. Additionally, among other factors, a spouse’s inappropriate actions during the marriage or an unequal financial status may affect how much property is awarded to each member of the couple in the divorce. If there is a valid reason to object to a court’s original decision on property division, an appeal regarding that property division may be filed.
Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreement Disputes
Many couples sign a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that lays out terms for the property division process in the event of a divorce. However, it's not uncommon for an individual to contest the validity of a prenup or postnup. Some common reasons an individual may challenge a pre or postnup include:
- The original agreement contained stipulations for child custody or other marital arrangements pre and postnups cannot include;
- One spouse was coerced or threatened into signing the agreement;
- The pre or postnup was unconscionable or overreaching in its demands for one partner;
- One party failed to properly disclose their property during the drafting of the pre or postnup;
- One party failed to waive the right to disclosure during the drafting of pre or postnup.
Successfully challenging a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can enable a party to obtain a more equitable division of assets and liabilities with their partner.
Parental & Relative Rights Issues
Many parents who have their rights terminated by a court choose to appeal that outcome, not wanting to lose their relationship with their child.
Additionally, relatives sometimes find themselves embroiled in appeals when they do not receive the desired outcome in a case. For example, in a situation where a child's grandparents requested parental rights but failed to receive them, they may appeal the case in an effort to obtain parental rights or another arrangement, such as visitation, with their grandchild.
Overturning a Ruling
The primary difficulty facing appellate lawyers is the fact that during an appeal, the burden is on the appealing party to demonstrate an abuse of discretion by the trial court or that the trial court made a serious error in applying the law to the case at hand.
There are two primary reasons why a ruling may be an abuse of discretion:
- The ruling does not take into account full consideration of the relevant facts and laws
- The ruling departs from judicial custom and established precedent in an unreasonable manner
While it is uncommon for a case to be overturned on appeal, it is possible to show that inappropriate evidence was admitted to the case, or that valid evidence was excluded, in order to have the ruling overturned on an evidentiary basis. Similarly, unusual interpretations of the law that conflict with precedent are sometimes grounds for successful appeals.
The Divorce Appellate Process
A simple disagreement with a divorce order is never enough to challenge it on appeal. If one person hoped for a bigger share of assets or desired more spousal support, for example, the grounds for an appeal will not apply. However, you may have come out of the divorce process with a sense that the case was deeply flawed, or that the judge made an oversight in your particular situation. When that happens, your last chance to make a change may be with an attorney who can appeal the outcome of a divorce case to a higher court for a more positive result.
An appealable issue also exists when a judge may have misapplied the relevant law or made decisions that were substantially unfair to one or both parties. This can include the miscalculation of child support, or the judge’s refusal to allow certain testimony. Only an experienced lawyer can thoroughly analyze the court records to determine if mistakes were made and there are sufficient grounds for an appeal.
If you choose to appeal, a Notice of Appeal must be filed with the Texas Court of Appeals within 30 days of the final judgment. The appeal must list all of the issues you wish the court to address during the process. You cannot appeal a trial court’s decision upon the basis that you believe someone was lying. Appeals are limited to whether or not the judge correctly interpreted and applied the law to the facts of your case.
After a Notice of Appeal is filed, a lawyer will prepare a brief explaining why the appeal is being filed, and include with it a trial transcript, pleadings, evidence, and other documentation. Since filing appeals is a lengthy and time-consuming process, our attorneys will strive to ensure there is a sufficient basis to go forward with the appeals process in your individual case.
Once your divorce appeal is filed, the appellate court will look for critical errors or an abuse of discretion in the original case. An abuse of discretion occurs when a judge acted unreasonably or arbitrarily, or without referring to the appropriate rules of the court. If there is substantial proof to support the original decree, it is unlikely that the court will find an abuse of discretion. Successful appeals occur, however, when a legal team demonstrates that the court made an error in its conclusions as to the legal basis for a divorce judgment.
If you have been handed an unsatisfactory ruling in a family law case which you believe to be unfair, it is important that you seek out the assistance of a skilled attorney to evaluate your case. At Diggs & Sadler, our experienced Houston divorce appeals lawyers can help evaluate the chance your case has for a successful appeal and can work to protect your rights and interests throughout the appeals process.
Contact our offices today at (713) 766-5355 to learn more about your legal options.
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