It's the scenario every parent in a child custody battle dreads: having the court rule against you in your custody case. The idea of losing custody of your child—or worse, losing the ability even to see them—can be nothing short of heart-wrenching. Even more so if you know the parent awarded custody is unsafe for the child.
The good news is that if you are not satisfied with the outcome of your child custody case, you may be able to file an appeal. In North Carolina, there are specific criteria that the appellate court uses to review the case, and an appeal may not be the best option for everyone. Let's talk a bit more about the process so you can be better informed.
The Process of Filing an Appeal
If you are seeking an appeal, the first step is for your attorney to file a Notice of Appeal with the North Carolina Court of Appeals within 30 days after the initial judgment is filed. Your attorney will also collect a “Record in Appeal” for the case, including a transcript of the District Court proceedings and all relevant evidence associated with the case. With the appeal, the attorney should also file a written brief detailing the grounds on which you are appealing the custody decision. (Oral arguments are generally not held with custody appeals.)
Once the appeal and all supporting documentation have been filed, a panel of three appellate court judges will review the case. It's important to note that the appellate court is not re-trying the case, so there can be no new introduction of arguments, evidence, etc. Their only objective is to determine whether the lower court abused its discretion or made a mistake that affected the outcome. If a majority of the appellate judges find that you have been wronged in some way, they may overturn the decision and remand the case back to the lower court for new custody proceedings. If not, they will uphold the decision.
Should I Appeal My Child Custody Case?
You have the right to appeal a court decision you feel is wrong, but you'll need to weigh the decision to appeal carefully. Appealing a case is time-consuming and very costly, and the fact is that the appellate courts deny most appeals. They only overturn decisions in cases where there is an apparent mistake in law or an abuse of power. If none of these factors is apparent in your case, it might not be a good use of time and money to file an appeal. In such cases, a better strategy might be to change the circumstances that prompted the judge's ruling and revisit the custody issue at a later time.
At Jerkins Family Law, we have extensive experience with contentious child custody cases. If you've recently lost a custody battle, we can both advise you on whether your case warrants an appeal and coordinate the appeal on your behalf. Call us today at (919) 719-2785 or contact us online.