The outcome of any family law case has a profound impact on the lives of everyone involved. When an error of the law is made, it can have serious, long-term effects on your family, your children, your livelihood, and your finances.
At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, we assist clients with family law appeals. Our skilled legal team has experience appealing erroneous legal decisions and can advocate for your rights after an unjust ruling. We can assist you with everything from child custody and visitation appeals to property and asset division appeals to spousal and child support appeals. In every instance, we strive to ensure that your rights are protected and that a fair and just ruling is reached.
Discuss your options with one of our family law appeals lawyers in Fairfax; call us or fill out a contact form to request your consultation.
When Can You Appeal a Family Court Decision?
A ruling cannot be successfully appealed simply because you do not agree or are not satisfied with the outcome. In general, family law judgments can only be appealed when an error of law has been made by the court.
In Virginia, initial decisions regarding family law cases are typically made by either the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts (JDRDC) or the circuit courts. The JDRDC is not able to decide divorce cases or enter divorce decrees, but they are able to rule on issues such as child support, child custody, and spousal support. If you wish to appeal a decision by the JDRDC, you must do so within 10 days of the JDRDC’s ruling. To do this, you will have to file an application for review with the circuit court. Generally, the circuit court will conduct an entirely new hearing or trial using the evidence, testimony, and other relevant information presented in the JDRDC. The circuit court does not review the JDRDC’s ruling for errors but instead replaces its ruling with one of its own.
If you wish to appeal a decision made by the circuit court (whether an initial ruling or a ruling made after a JDRDC appeal), you will have to do so through the Virginia Court of Appeals. You must file an application for review with the Virginia Court of Appeals within 30 days of the circuit court’s ruling. Once your application has been filed, the Virginia Court of Appeals will review the circuit court’s ruling for errors of the law or abuse of discretion—it will not provide you with a new hearing and/or trial.
Errors of the Law & Abuse of Discretion
As mentioned above, the only way to appeal a ruling by the circuit court is to show that the court made an error or abused its discretion. This can be incredibly difficult, as the circuit court rarely makes mistakes in the law. However, it is not unheard of. Having an experienced Fairfax family law appeals attorney on your side can greatly help your case.
Examples of errors of the law or abuse of discretion can include:
- Failing to correctly apply Virginia’s child support guidelines
- Setting permanent spousal support without taking into account the various required factors
- Awarding child custody to a parent that has been proven to have a criminal record
- Imputing income to you for being voluntarily unemployed when the evidence only showed that you are disabled and involuntarily employed
Proving abuse of discretion can be incredibly difficult. Often, the appellate court will not reverse decisions made by the lower court judge, as it generally presumes that the lower court judge’s decisions are correct, having been made based on relevant evidence and testimony. Because the appellate court does not re-hear this evidence or testimony, it rarely reverses these decisions unless a blatant abuse of discretion has been made.
Family Law Appeals FAQs
Can you appeal a child custody ruling in VA?
Yes, if you have the right grounds for an appeal and act before the deadline, you can appeal a custody decision. If the ruling was issued by the JDRDC, you must appeal within 10 days, but you do not generally need to prove that the ruling contained legal errors. If you are appealing a decision of the Circuit Court, you need to show that the court made an error, such as applying guidelines incorrectly, or that the judge abused discretion.
What are grounds for an appeal in VA?
The Virginia Court of Appeals has discretion to decide whether to take an appeal case. You must persuade the appellate court that the lower court made a legal error, not a factual mistake. This could be the incorrect application of the law or an abuse of judicial discretion. An experienced appellate attorney could review your case to determine whether you have the right grounds to succeed with an appeal.
How do I appeal a custody decision in VA?
If you are considering an appeal, it is wise to discuss the issues with your attorney as soon as possible so that your legal documents can be filed by the deadline. When appealing a decision of the JDRDC, you must file within ten days of the original ruling. Then the Circuit Court will hear your case over again, with no carryover from the original ruling.
To appeal a Circuit Court decision, your attorney files the forms and documentation with the Virginia Court of Appeals, and then you wait to learn whether your attorney convinced the court that you have the right legal grounds for an appeal. If the court agrees to hear the case, they will only consider the specific errors that form the basis for your appeal.
How long do you have to appeal a custody case in VA?
You have 10 days to appeal a custody case heard by the JDRDC. If you want to appeal a Circuit Court decision, you must file your appeal within 30 days.
How do I file a juvenile court appeal in VA?
You can appeal a final order or judgment of the juvenile court to the Circuit Court if you file your appeal within 10 days. The Circuit Court will hear the case over again from scratch. If a case arises under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, you may file an appeal up to 30 days after the ruling.
Schedule a Case Evaluation with Us Today
Appealing a family court decision is a complex process and one that requires the experience and proficiency of a seasoned attorney. If you have questions about your family law case ruling or wish to appeal a decision, our firm can help you understand your options. Our Fairfax family law appeals lawyers have the skill, resources, and in-depth legal knowledge to help you navigate the appeals process.
Contact us online or by phone to request a confidential consultation with our team today.