Appeal a Family Court Order

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedJan 11, 2022
3 minute read

The outcome of your custody or divorce case can have major implications on your life for years to come. If you believe the judge made a mistake when it rendered the decision, you may be able to appeal a family court order.

This article explores the process to appeal a family law decision in Colorado. While we provide a practical look into Colorado family law appeals, the article is not a substitute for speaking with a family law attorney about your case.

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Family Court Order Appeals

What is an Appeal?

Simply put, when you file an appeal, you are asking a higher court to review a lower court’s decision about your case. In Colorado, family law cases generally appeal to either a district court judge or to the state appeals court. Sometimes family law cases make it to the state supreme court, though that is uncommon.

The party that is appealing often wants the higher court to set aside the lower court’s decision. In other words, have the lower court’s order invalidated.

How Long Do I Have to Appeal a Family Court Order?

If a District Court Issued the Order:

You should be aware that family law appeals are incredibly time-dependent. You have only 49 days to appeal a decision by a district judge. These cases are reviewed by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

If a County Magistrate Issued the Order:

Magistrates are judicial officers who can decide cases and administer the law on a limited basis. They do not have the authority to act on a motion to reconsider their decision. Colo. R. Magis. 7(a) Instead, you would file a request for review by a district court judge.

You must file the petition for review within 14 to 21 days of receiving the order.

How Do I Know if I Can Appeal a Family Court Order?

Many people will disagree with a judge’s decision about their case, but that does not automatically mean they can appeal. Let’s look at some of the boxes you need to check off, if you will, to be eligible to appeal a family court order:

  • Has the court rendered a decision on your family law matter?
  • Were you provided with a final written order by the court?
  • Do you have legal grounds to appeal the order?

If you answered yes to the first two questions you could be on your way to filing an appeal. The last question, though, is the tough one: do you have legal grounds to file an appeal? Let’s find out…

Legal Grounds to Appeal a Family Court Order

There are a number of legal grounds to appeal a family court order, and they can include issues such as:
  • the other party misrepresented the facts of the case
  • the facts of the case were misunderstood by the court
  • the court made mistakes in reaching its decision
  • there was a misapplication of the law
  • the judge abused his or her discretion in your case

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course. But if you feel that any of these apply to your matter, we strongly advise you to reach out to a family law attorney to discuss your claims. An attorney can determine whether you have legitimate grounds for an appeal and discuss with you the chances of winning your appeal.

Types of Family Court Orders You Can Appeal

  • Parenting Time
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Maintenance
  • Decision Making Authority
  • Property Division

Outcomes of an Appeal

  • Affirm – The original decision remains as it is.
  • Reverse – The original order is determined to be wrong and it is vacated.
  • Remand – Your case is sent back to the lower court to be heard again.
  • Modify – A portion of the original order is changed due to the appeal.

What Happens if You Miss the Deadline to Appeal

If you miss the deadline to file an appeal, you will have to file with the court a motion to modify the agreement. Our Family Law Team can assist you with that, as well.

Why You Need an Experienced Family Law Attorney for Your Appeal

Believe it or not, the Colorado Court of Appeals has declined to hear many cases due to fundamental legal oversight. If your case does not have all of the elements it needs to appeal or the appeal is filed with the wrong court, well, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money.

In addition to developing strategic arguments for your case, an experienced attorney will ensure that you can file an appeal. And she or he will be sure to submit it to the correct court.

Let’s look at an example of an appeal that went wrong:

In 2004, the Colorado Court of Appeals declined to hear a father’s family order appeal for two very important reasons: one, the lower court judge had not issued final orders on two of the issues the father had appealed, and, two, this particular family law case had at that time only been heard by a county magistrate.

The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for the final orders the father needed all along for his appeal. Then the magistrate’s decision would need to be reviewed by a district judge. Unfortunately for this father, he would end up spending even more time and money.

Remember, final orders are necessary for a judge to review an appeal. Requests to review a magistrate’s orders should be directed to a district court judge before jumping to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

We cannot underscore enough that you need an experienced family law attorney who knows the applicable laws for appeals.

Get an Attorney for Your Family Court Order Appeal

Appealing a family law decision is a complex undertaking that is expensive and time-consuming. You need an experienced family law attorney who is well-versed in the family law appeals process so you have the best possible shot at a positive outcome. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.

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