This is the next post in my series on child custody appeals in Melbourne, Florida. My last post discussed the ways in which a party may challenge a trial court’s “best interests” determination. An appeals court may not consider evidence that was not admitted at trial, but it may disagree with the trial court’s initial conclusions based on that information. I also stressed the importance of consulting with an experienced attorney to evaluate your appeal options. In this post, I will discuss how a party may challenge a judge’s evidentiary rulings on appeal. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
A common issue in child custody appeals is challenging a judge’s allowance (or disallowance) of certain evidence used during trial. Documentary evidence, such as expert witness reports, medical records, or school records must meet certain requirements to be admitted into evidence. Testimonial evidence must also meet certain requirements before it can be considered by the court. Whether the materials or statements fall short of complying with the rules or whether the trial court erroneously admitted or denied their use are issues reviewable on appeal. We will explore those issues in the following example.
Suppose a trial court granted full custody to a father, deciding that a mother’s health condition prevented her from providing proper care for their child. The evidence used to support this claim at trial includes the mother’s medical records showing previous periods of hospitalization. In addition, the father submitted documentary evidence in the form of a report about a similar condition written by a doctor. As stated above, some types of documentary evidence require proof of their authenticity, relevance, and veracity. In this case, the mother may challenge the use of the expert report on appeal. The disease covered in the report may be irrelevant since it focuses on a similar, but not the same condition. Furthermore, the doctor’s testimony be required to verify the contents of the report.
Now consider that a nurse who has treated other patients suffering from the same health condition also testified at trial. The nurse stated that the condition may cause future illnesses that could possibly prevent her from caring for the child. On appeal, the mother argues that she is no longer suffering from the condition and that the nurse’s testimony that she may suffer future episodes was only speculation. Because the speculative statement should not have been admitted into evidence, the appeals court may reverse the decision or remand the case for a new trial.
Depending upon the specific facts, you may be able to challenge your case on appeal. I am an experienced Melbourne, Florida child custody appeals attorney dedicated to helping my clients through the appeal process. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak to a lawyer. My officer serves clients in the cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River shores, and Orchid.