Empty courtroomThis is the next post in my series of articles discussing child custody appeals in Melbourne and throughout the state of Florida. In my last article, I addressed the issues that are commonly raised during a child custody appeal. It is important to understand that the District Court of Appeals is limited in the types of matters it may review. Understanding what can be considered on appeal can help parents decide whether to pursue a review of a Trial Court’s decision. Consulting with a family law attorney early in the process can help you determine what elements of your case could be appealed. In this article, I will discuss Florida’s appellate system and how the parties should proceed while the case is under review by a higher court. If you are in need of assistance with a child custody matter, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.

As noted in my previous posts, Florida law imposes a strict deadline to appeal a child custody decision. Any party wishing to pursue this option must submit a Notice of Appeal to the appropriate Court within thirty days after the Trial Court’s ruling, along with the required filing fee. Failing to file the correct paperwork before the deadline expires will effectively “close” the case. The right to appeal the court’s earlier decision will be permanently waived. For obvious reasons, I cannot stress enough the importance of contacting an attorney early in the process to preserve your legal rights.

Because the appeals process can be lengthy, it is important to understand how to handle the child’s care and custody until the matter is resolved. It is possible in some circumstances for a party to obtain a “stay” of the Trial Court’s decision. A stay of the proceeding would put the Trial Court’s order on hold while the appeal is pending. If a stay is granted, the child’s care and custody will be governed by the order that was in place prior to the trial. If a stay is not granted, the Trial Court’s order will apply pending the outcome of the appeal. Complying with the applicable custody ruling during an ongoing appeal process is a legal requirement. Failing to do so could have negative consequences in future legal proceedings. It is imperative, therefore, to understand how a stay impacts your current situation.

Once a party files its Notice of Appeal with the District Court, that party has seventy days to file its brief, which sets out the detailed grounds on which the Trial Court’s decision is being challenged. The brief will refer to testimony and evidence presented at the trial level, which is included in a transcript of the proceeding and related exhibits. A transcript is prepared by a court reporter and submitted to the Court along with the brief. At this point, the other party will have the ability to file an Answer (a response brief) and the original appealing party has the right to file a Reply to the Answer. The appellate process is very different from the original trial. This process is largely handled by the attorneys. You will not be required to testify. There will not be witnesses or investigations. The appeals process rarely involves physically attending hearings or oral arguments. The District Court will rely heavily if not solely on the legal pleadings filed by the attorneys.

If you need assistance with a child custody matter in Melbourne, Florida or surrounding areas, please contact my office today to speak with a family law attorney. We can help you decide if an appeal of a custody determination is the right option for you. We also serve clients in the Brevard County 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.