Nashville Divorce Attorney Offering Appellate Advocacy
Appealing a divorce or other family law decision in Tennessee
The ability to file an appeal after receiving a ruling in a civil or criminal court is a safeguard built into our judicial system in the United States. By filing an appeal, you’re not being granted a new trial, and you cannot file one simply because you are unhappy with the final judgment. The presentation of new evidence or witness statements is not permitted. Rather, your attorney presents a case using the evidence and the court transcripts from your original trial. Your lawyer’s goal in presenting an appeal of your case is to show where the trial court may have made mistakes in the original trial.
The fact is that sometimes, judges just get it wrong for any number of reasons – and only some of those decisions can be rectified. Maybe too much was happening in the court room and something was missed. Maybe the relevance of a key piece of evidence was misunderstood or maybe the evidence was excluded altogether. Sometimes when a mistake or error in your trial leads to an unfortunate decision, you might have the right to appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court. The Nashville attorneys of Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC handle complex appeals on behalf of clients throughout the State of Tennessee. To schedule a consultation with Karla Miller, please contact the firm today.
Filing an appeal of a family court decision in Tennessee
Preparing and arguing an appeal itself can be complicated. Appeals are intended to be a remedy of sorts when you believe a judge made an error in a ruling on your case. In short, it gives you the potential opportunity for a different outcome in your case based upon the exact same evidence, but in limited situations. The only issues that you can appeal are those based upon errors of mistake in law or fact. And, in Tennessee, since the law related to divorce and custody decisions gives the judges a lot of discretion in those matters, you will have to show that there was an abuse of that discretion by the trial judge. That is a heavy burden.
A recorded transcript of the trial may give you the necessary springboard to file an appeal if it shows that a judge did any of the following:
- Misinterpreted either statutory or case law and applied it incorrectly to your case
- Followed improper legal procedure at trial
- Misunderstood the facts presented at trial
- Abused its discretion regarding certain matters, such as in the award of alimony or the designation of a primary residential parent
Appellate courts have very specific rules of procedure that must be followed right down to the format of the appellate brief. It takes specific knowledge of these rules to ensure an appeal is not dismissed based on a careless error that could jeopardize your case regardless of whether you are the appellant or respondent.
The first step to an appeal occurs before your original trial has concluded. Your attorney must preserve the issue and your right to file an appeal by objecting to appealable errors on the record at trial. This provides the judge notice of a potential error you may raise after trial. If your attorney is not well versed in appellate work, you may lose an unrecognized opportunity for objection at trial, thereby losing your ability to appeal.
What makes a case eligible for an appeal?
In Tennessee, you must file an appeal within thirty (30) days of the entry of the trial court’s judgment. The Tennessee Supreme Court adheres to strict deadlines, so if you do not file your appeal within the deadline, you will have lost your chance forever. Some examples of divorce and family law matters whose decision might be appealed include:
- Asset division. There could be many reasons to appeal a division of assets. A misunderstanding of a financial declaration, or misapplication of the proper allocation under the parties’ specific circumstances could produce an improper split of property under the law.
- Child custody. Failing to adhere to the best interest of the child factors and making a custody determination based upon inadmissible evidence could leave a ruling open for appeal.
- Child support. Determining child support without proper proof of income in dispute may provide grounds for filing an appeal.
- Alimony. Ignoring the alimony factors when making a determination as to an award that would unfairly and detrimentally affect a party could place the judgement in the hands of the appellate court.
While you may not be satisfied with the outcome of your case, that is not sufficient grounds for an appeal. Filing an appeal is not always in your best interest. Your divorce attorney will have the best insight as to whether an appeal makes sense, and whether there was indeed an error in law or fact in the original trial. There could have been information that the judge overlooked that could have influenced the outcome. There could have been inadmissible evidence which influenced the judge’s decision, or even a mistake in procedure.
In Tennessee, you have an absolute right to an appeal in a civil case, including divorce and other family law matters. After the panel of three appellate judges hears the arguments on both sides, there are three possible outcomes:
- The original family court ruling can be affirmed, or upheld. This means the original ruling will stand as is.
- The original ruling may be reversed when the appellate court decides that it was wrong. In this case, the Family Court decision is vacated. Often when a case is reversed it will be remanded back down to the family court to be heard again.
- The appellate court can remand (return) the case to the lower court with instructions as to how the case should be concluded.
One vitally important thing to remember concerning appeals is that timelines are tight. If you wish to pursue an appeal there are deadlines for filing. You must contact a Nashville family law attorney who handles appeals immediately or you could lose your opportunity to appeal your case. There is no requirement that you work with the same attorney who handled the original case.
- Cole vs. Cole, 2008 WL 1891436 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 29, 2008).
- DeLuca vs. Schumacher, 2020 WL 1079524 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 6, 2020).
- Jennette vs. Jennette, 1999 WL 732519 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 21, 1999).
- Odom vs. Odom, 2001 WL 1543476 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 5, 2001).
- Reed vs. Reed, 2012 WL 1107888 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 13, 2012).
- Tippens-Florea vs. Florea, 2012 WL 1965593 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 31, 2012).
Experienced appellate advocacy for family law and divorce clients
At Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC, we guide our clients through divorce, deciding child custody, paternity, support, and any other family law issues at hand. We help our clients get the result they need to begin a new life. You are invited you to call us today or contact us to reserve your consultation with an experienced Nashville divorce attorney.