Appealing a Child Support Order

In Child Support by Sarah Hink

No one can genuinely argue that child support is unnecessary. Every state in the country has child support laws based on an underlying presumption that each parent should bear financial responsibility for their children. For separated parents, the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation can be a source of incredible contention. These battles generally stem from some combination of lingering resentment between the parents and conflicting senses of justice: that one parent isn’t willing to pay their share or that the other parent is asking for much more than they need. If you are currently in a child support dispute, or if a court has entered a final order that includes child support, you should be aware of what an appeal of that order

Appellate Court’s Standard of Review

Following the entry of a final order, parties have the legal right to appeal the judgment. If you have received an unfavorable child support order, we would suggest that you first temper your expectations. It should be noted that appellate courts are not generally inclined to overturn child support orders. This is because of the general principal that appellate courts must give a trial court’s child support orders “substantial deference.”

Appellate courts must review the appellate record to determine whether the trial court has committed an “abuse of discretion.” In legalese, this generally means a decision was “so arbitrary that it could not have been the result of a reasoned decision.” In English, this basically means that the trial court must have obviously acted outside of the decision-making authority granted under the law.

Child Support Orders Must be Specific

In order to withstand an appeal, a child support order must make specific findings and conclusions. This is for the purpose of transparency so that the appellate court can determine whether the trial court applied the law correctly. Regarding factual findings, the trial court’s order must be specific to indicate what facts the trial court considered, including the size of the parents’ estates, their income and earnings, the child’s and parents’ standard of living, and the contributions of the parents to maintaining the household. These findings are essential, and take on additional significance if the trial court has strayed from the child support guidelines. Further, the trial court’s conclusions of law must demonstrate that it properly considered the ability of each parent to pay child support and how much support is necessary to meet the “reasonable needs of the child.”

Child Support Orders Must Be Based on Sufficient Evidence

Beyond what is on the face of a trial court’s order, child support findings must be supported by “competent evidence.” The courts of appeals are generally limited to looking at the trial record, which includes transcripts of the trial taken by the court reporter, as well as documents that were admitted into evidence. This is important because an appeal is not a new trial. The court of appeals cannot consider new evidence, and can only look at what was before the trial court at the time it ruled. If this record does not support the trial court’s findings, the appellate court will reverse the court’s order.

Call New Direction Family Law

The New Direction Family Law has represented clients in custody and child support cases for over two decades. If you are worried that you will not receive enough money to support your children, or that you are being obligated to pay an unsustainable amount of child support, contact us. Our team understands how important child support orders are to both your children and to your own livelihood. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an initial consultation, or visit us online at our website.