Family law cases in North Carolina can be emotionally charged, and the legal landscape can be intricate. When parties involved in family law disputes feel that a decision is unjust or erroneous, the option of an appeal may provide a pathway to seek a reconsideration. This blog explores key issues surrounding appeals in family law cases in North Carolina and offers insights into the appellate process.
When contemplating appealing a case in North Carolina, you must make a cost benefit analysis to weigh the cost of the appeal against the wrong you’re trying to address. It will cost thousands in attorney fees to pursue an appeal and you can expect to wait longer than 6 months to get a decision on your appeal. If the issue in your case that you wish to appeal is time sensitive or for a monetary amount less than what you can expect to pay to pursue an appeal, it may not make a lot of sense in your case. However, if you believe an erroneous decision has cause a significant loss an appeal may be your only option.
Understanding the Grounds for Appeal
In North Carolina, parties typically have the right to appeal family law decisions, but it’s crucial to understand the grounds on which an appeal can be based. Common grounds for appeal include errors in the application of law, misinterpretation of evidence, or allegations of procedural irregularities during the trial.
Appealing Custody and Visitation Orders
Custody and visitation decisions are often at the heart of family law disputes. When appealing such orders, parties may argue that the court overlooked relevant evidence, misapplied legal standards, or that there was a significant change in circumstances that was not adequately considered. In addition, if you are ordered to pay attorney fees you can argue on appeal that the award was excessive or that the court did not properly consider the parties’ financial position prior to issuing an award.
Challenges in Property Division Appeals
Disputes over the division of marital property can be complex. Parties may appeal equitable distribution orders by claiming errors in valuation, unequal distribution, or failure to consider certain assets or debts.
Some common issues that arise in equitable distribution cases include 1) the classification of debts as marital without any evidence that the debts were incurred for the benefit of the marriage; 2) the improper classification of property owned by one spouse before the marriage as marital property; or 3) the division of property without proper valuation.
Understanding the rules governing property division appeals is crucial for those seeking reconsideration via appeal.
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Allegations of Legal Errors
Appeals in family law cases often hinge on allegations of legal errors. This could include the misapplication of statutes, failure to consider relevant case law, or decisions that are inconsistent with established legal principles. Identifying and proving these legal errors is a key aspect of a successful appeal.
Appealing Support Orders
Appeals may also arise in cases involving alimony or child support orders. Parties may challenge these orders by presenting evidence that the court failed to consider relevant factors, miscalculated support amounts, or that there has been a substantial change in circumstances warranting modification.
In addition, an attorney fee award in a child support order may be appealed. In order to award attorney fees in a child support case, the Court must find that the obligor has refused to furnish adequate support under the circumstances existing at the time of institution of the action or proceeding.* This analysis is often ignored in support cases.
Procedural Issues and Due Process
Procedural irregularities during the trial can be a basis for an appeal. If a party believes they were denied a fair hearing or that due process was not followed, they may seek relief through the appellate process. This could include issues related to the admission or exclusion of evidence, procedural missteps, or violations of constitutional rights.
The Appellate Process in North Carolina
Understanding the appellate process is crucial. In North Carolina, family law cases are appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The appellate court reviews the trial court’s decisions for legal errors and does not typically re-weigh evidence. Having an experienced appellate attorney is essential to navigate this process effectively.
Appealing family law decisions in North Carolina is a complex endeavor that requires a nuanced understanding of both the substantive family law issues and the appellate process. If you find yourself contemplating an appeal, seeking the guidance of an experienced family law appellate attorney is vital. They can help assess the merits of your case, identify grounds for appeal, and navigate the intricacies of the appellate process with the goal of achieving a just resolution.
Our attorneys have a wealth of experience handling appeals in family law and child welfare cases relating to equitable distribution, support, termination of parental rights, and juvenile matters throughout North Carolina. Schedule a confidential consultation to determine if appealing your decision makes sense under your unique circumstances.