The Family Court will make decisions related to divorce, divorce mediation, civil unions, child custody, child support, orders of protection and more. But did you know if you disagree with the judge’s decision from trial, you can file an “appeal”? Here’s everything you need to know about applying for an appeal in the state of Illinois.
Do you need help seeking an appeal from an unfavorable ruling in a divorce, child support case or other family law related matter? Judges can sometimes make an error that adversely affects the outcome of your case. In that situation, you may have a solid legal base for an appeal. An appeal is a request to have a higher court change or reverse a judgment of a lower court.
When you appeal, the entire case is reviewed by a higher court. Here are some points to note if you’re considering appealing a family court judge’s order.
Appealing a judge’s decision in family court
In some states, family court rulings can be appealed. This type of request is made to a higher court that will involve a judge, or panel of judges, to review the decision made by the lower court. This is not a rehearing, and you will not be able to present new evidence. The court of appeals’ objective is to review the trial record and determine whether or not the judge acted within their discretion. If the appeals court finds the judge acted accordingly, the decision will be upheld regardless of the appellate judges’ opinion on the matter.
In a majority of states, final orders given by the family court are the only cases that can be appealed. For example, in a divorce, a final order may include the final divorce decree, which might address asset distribution, child custody, and more. Temporary orders are pending and can only be appealed when you ask the appellate court to review them. It’s important to note that not all family law cases can be appealed. Grounds for an appeal are solely limited to:
- Errors in law: A mistake in a court proceeding. For example: when state law requires a parent who has been convicted of domestic violence to complete counseling before being awarded visitation rights, but a judge grants visitation without any proof of counseling.
- A mistake in fact: When a judge reached a final conclusion that no other person could have reached based upon the evidence. For example: when a parent is awarded sole custody even though they have been convicted of sexual abuse of a minor and the other parent has demonstrated to be a fit parent with no criminal record.
Appeals in Illinois
Because each state differs in law, you need to do your due diligence to ensure you follow the correct steps for the state you live in. In Illinois, a Notice of Appeal needs to be filed within 30 days of a final order, so if you don’t act quickly, you lose your right to an appeal. The appeals process can be lengthy and difficult. Should you decide to appeal your case without an attorney, you will need to follow the Rules just like those parties who have an attorney.
As of July 1, 2017, all documents filed in the Illinois Appellate Court and Illinois Supreme Court must be filed electronically (“e-filed”). If you need assistance, you may take your documents to the appellate court clerk’s office, where you can use a public terminal to e-file your documents. You can bring your documents on a flash drive or on paper. The terminal will have a scanner where you can scan, save, and then use the computer to e-file your documents.
IllinoisCourts.gov released a guide for appeals here which includes a full checklist of items to cover, along with a timeline of events in an appeal and where it is best to consult a family law attorney in this often-complex process.
Process for appealing a case
As mentioned, if you want to appeal a circuit court decision, you have 30 days after the final judgment to file a Notice of Appeal with the appellate court. This notice states what decision you are appealing and what you want to happen. Your Notice of Appeal must contain:
- The court you are appealing to.
- The court you are appealing from.
- The name and number assigned to the case by the circuit court.
- Who is filing the appeal (the appellant) and who will be responding to the appeal (the appellee).
- What orders of the circuit court you are appealing from and the dates they were entered.
- What you want the appellate court to do. For example, reverse the decision of the circuit court.
Each year in Illinois, thousands of families seek answers to questions regarding divorce, legal separation, allocation of parental responsibilities, support and other matters of family law. If you are thinking about appealing a decision related to divorce, child custody, child support, or another family law issue, you should really schedule a consultation with Masters Law Group immediately.
If you or your loved ones are looking to appeal a family court judge’s order, contact the attorneys at Masters Law Group for guidance on these matters.
Learn more about the U.S. Courts of Appeals here.