For those unaware, after a Lower Court makes a final decision in a family court case, either party has a right to appeal that decision to the Appellate Court. A Notice of Appeal must be filed, along with any other relevant documents, within 45 days of the date of the entry of the Judgment.
The Appeal is based on the record and no new information is to be transmitted to the Appellate Division, and no testimony will be heard. The Appellate judges will review the underlying Order or Judgment, the transcript of the proceeding in the Lower Court (a typewritten volume which includes everything that was said in the courtroom by the attorneys, parties, other witnesses, and the judge), and the briefs submitted by the attorneys in the case arguing their client’s positions.
After the Appellate Court reviews the above, there is oral argument before the Panel so any questions can be answered. Once the Appellate judges make a decision, an Order is sent out.
The Appellate Court has three choices in deciding a case on appeal: it can affirm the Lower Court’s decision, it can reverse that decision, or it can reverse the decision and remand it to the trial court for further proceedings. In family court appeals, due to the issues that are generally appealed, if the Appellate Court reverses a decision, there is generally a remand.
If the proceeding was a divorce trial and if the entire Order is reversed and remanded, then a new trial on all issues must take place. If only a few issues are appealed and the Appellate Division reverses the Court’s award on those issues and remands, then the Lower Court will have a hearing/trial on just those issues.
Appeals take approximately one year from the date the Notice of Appeal is filed until the date you receive a decision. If the case is remanded, it will then take much more time, because you will be essentially starting over with regard to discovery and preparation for a new hearing/trial.
If you have a case or issues in your case that you believe should be appealed, it is imperative to consult with a lawyer immediately, given the short time frame for filing a Notice of Appeal.