Child custody orders are among the most commonly appealed decisions in divorce. When one parent is allowed little or no access to their children or required to have supervised visitation, for example, it can be a devastating blow, affecting both the parent and children.
If you believe a custody order in your case warrants appeal, it’s crucial to understand when you have a right to appeal and on what grounds. It’s also important to take action as swiftly as possible. State laws vary regarding how long you have after an order is handed down to file an appeal.
Let’s look at a few things it’s important to know about appealing custody orders.
The order must be final
A temporary custody order typically can’t be appealed. That’s because judges usually issue those based on information they have at the time and are awaiting the outcome of an investigation or more evidence.
For example, sometimes a judge will order a parent to have supervised visitation if there have been allegations of abuse or neglect. Meanwhile, there may be an investigation into the allegations or the court may be waiting for evidence to be presented. However, courts have to err on the side of caution to protect a child’s safety and well-being.
What can (and can’t) be included in an appeal
You cannot include new evidence or testimony in an appeal. The purpose of an appeal is to have a higher court review the original decision based on the evidence provided to the judge in that case.
While family court judges all have the directive to rule in the best interests of the child, that can be highly subjective. If you believe that the order handed down wasn’t in your child’s best interests or that the judge made a mistake in interpreting the law or perhaps had a conflict of interest that caused them to rule against you, an appellate court may agree with you.
The best way to determine whether you have grounds for an appeal is to seek experienced legal guidance. This can help you ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to fight for what’s best for your child.