Given the nature of family law cases, parties are often unsatisfied with the decision made at the trial court level (Superior Court level). Sometimes, those parties will look into appealing the decision. And occasionally, the parties will even formally appeal such a decision.
Family law appeals are rare for several reasons. Firstly, they are very expensive. The party filing the appeal is required to obtain the transcripts from the trial court, and that is expensive in itself. Also, the filing of an appeal is a labor-intensive process. If an attorney will be retained, the legal fees will likely be daunting. Secondly, there is case law that states the appellate court is to give superior court judges a great deal of deference in their decisions—appeals will often times be unsuccessful. Thirdly, parties are not provided with a lot of time to render the decision of whether or not to appeal.
R. 2:4-1(a) provides in relevant part that:
“Appeals from final judgments of courts, final judgment or orders of judges sitting as statutory agents and final judgments of the Division of Workers’ Compensation shall be taken within 45 days of their entry. However, appeals from final judgments terminating parental rights shall be taken within 21 days of their entry.”
Moreover, if the matter is appealed to the Appellate Division, the appellate court decision may then be appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, if granted certiorari. This means that cases could conceivably be tied up in appellate courts for years. That may be fine for major corporations or governmental agencies, but family law involves individuals. It is more common, however, for even a successful appeal to lead to a “remand”—whereby the case will be sent back to the original trial court for additional rulings. For many, the process simply demands too much and offers too little.
That said, every case is different. Every case is entirely fact-sensitive. There have been times I have advised my clients to appeal. There have been more times I have advised clients of the pros and cons of their appealing a certain issue and they have decided against pursing an appeal. The appeals process likely will take between 1 and 2 years from start to finish. It may cost tens of thousands of dollars. The appeals court will be constrained to only review the decision of the trial court and the evidence presented at the trial court.
Although appeals are rare, they are an important part of our state’s judicial process. And sometimes under the right set of facts or circumstances, our Appellate Courts even rise beyond the function of correcting a mistake—rise instead to the level of righting a wrong or even creating new law—or rather the different interpretation of law.
Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:
If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options. You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3`096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.