In simple terms, an appeal is the process by which a party asks a higher court to review the decision of a lower court. Typically in family law cases, the ruling of a district court is reviewed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. To file an appeal you must be an aggrieved party, meaning you are actually a party to the case, and you believe you have somehow been injured by the ruling.
There is a deadline for filing notice of appeal. In most cases, you have 30 days from the time an order is signed by the judge and file-stamped with the court to give notice of appeal. Your notice must be in writing and filed with the court from which you’re appealing.
Once the process is started, the appeal takes jurisdiction of that specific issue from the district court and places the issue in front of the appellate court. For example, if a custody order is appealed, the district court is unable to make further decisions about custody until the appeal is decided, but if you have other issues pending in your case (like, alimony, child support, or equitable distribution), those issues may proceed in district court. While the district court cannot make new decisions about the issue being appealed, it can still enforce the order that is on appeal. If you do not want the district court to enforce the order while the appeal is pending, you must ask the district court for a stay of enforcement.
The North Carolina Judicial Branch maintains several resources that are helpful for appeals, including the Rules of Appellate Procedure and a list of opinions issued by the Court of Appeals and North Carolina Supreme Court.
An appeal is a complex process that involves important deadlines, in-depth legal research, and writing a brief that is submitted to the appellate court. Sometimes, cases on appeal are decided by oral argument in front of a panel of judges. Consulting with an attorney who regularly handles appeals is the best first step in deciding if you should pursue an appeal.
In our Podcast, Jaime Davis discusses the appellate process in family law cases with her colleague and fellow family law attorney Jonathan Melton.
Overturning a divorce decree is a complex and long process. If you believe that the court made a mistake in your final divorce decree, you may want to consult an attorney. Start the process now by contacting our experienced attorneys at Gailor Hunt.