Is it Possible to Appeal a Child Custody Order?

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

Most child custody cases are resolved by agreement. This is best for the parties and best for the children as an agreement is harmonious and indicates a greater likelihood that parents can learn to co-parent their children. Unfortunately, there are cases where parents “dig in” and there is a gap between parents that is too great to overcome, even through court ordered mediation. In these cases, it becomes necessary for a case to go to trial and for a court to resolve the matter.

Predictably, when courts enter orders following a dispute, one or both parties may walk away unhappy with the resolution. This presents the question: Is it possible to appeal a child custody order?

The answer is yes. In order to appeal a child custody order, a party is required to file a “notice of appeal” within 30 days of the entry of the final custody order. Once this occurs, the Court of Appeals assumes jurisdiction over the case.

What Issues Can an Appellate Court Consider?

In order for a party to raise an issue on appeal, the issue must be preserved for review. This means that when the alleged harm occurred before the trial court, the appealing party must have objected or brought the issue to the trial court’s attention, resulting in an adverse ruling from the court. Otherwise, the trial court was not given a fair opportunity to rectify its error. Further, an appellate court is limited to considering the issues that are properly raised by the appealing party.

Amongst the most common types of appellate issues that the appellate courts consider are:

  • Jurisdiction challenges. In order for a trial court to enter an enforceable final order, it must have jurisdiction over the subject matter and jurisdiction over the people in the case. Jurisdiction challenges may arise if there was another court with jurisdiction, non-compliance with the UCCJEA (which governs interstate jurisdiction issues), lack of personal service over a party, or defective service.
  • Abuse of discretion challenges. When a party believes that the court has erred in its application of the law, the party will allege that the court abused its discretion. Examples of this may be allowing improper testimony over an objection, allowing the admission of records in violation of the rules of evidence, or committing a violation of civil procedure.
  • Sufficiency of the Evidence challenges. A party can also allege that the evidence presented at trial was not sufficient to support the trial court’s custody findings. This is generally not a successful challenge, as trial courts are given enormous discretion to make decisions in the best interest of the children, and appellate courts are usually reluctant to disturb that discretion.

New Direction Family Law

Child custody disputes can bring out the worst in people. In our experience, we have seen these cases get incredibly ugly. Let us help you sift through the ugliness and keep your focus on serving your children. If you need advice or representation, contact New Direction Family Law. Our attorneys are passionate about serving the best interest of children and advocating for our clients. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit our website.