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PA Court of Appeals: What to Expect When Appealing a Family Law Case in PA

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Family law cases in Pennsylvania can be complex and emotionally charged, and the decisions made by the family court can significantly impact the lives of those involved. However, sometimes a party may not agree with the outcome of a family court decision and may consider filing an appeal. An appeal is a legal process by which a higher court reviews the decision of a lower court to determine if any errors were made that may have affected the outcome of the case.

mother with child

In this article, we will explore the common reasons why a family law attorney may recommend an appeal of a family court decision in Pennsylvania. These reasons may include errors of law, procedural errors, a decision of the trial court that is not supported by the evidence, or that the trial court abused its discretion. We will also address common questions about the appeal process in Pennsylvania, such as how long a party has to file an appeal, how long the appeal process may take, and the potential costs associated with filing an appeal. Understanding the grounds for appeal and the appeal process can be crucial in determining whether filing an appeal is appropriate in a particular family law case in Pennsylvania.

Why Your Family Law Attorney may recommend an Appeal of a Family Court Decision in Pennsylvania,

There are several reasons why someone may consider filing an appeal in a family law court case in Pennsylvania. Some common reasons for filing an appeal in family law cases may include:

  1. Errors of Law: If the trial court made a legal error in interpreting or applying the law, a party might file an appeal to challenge the legal basis for the trial court’s decision. For example, if the trial court misapplied a statute or case law, or failed to consider relevant legal principles, it may be grounds for an appeal.
  2. Errors of Fact: If the trial court’s findings of fact are not supported by the evidence presented during the trial, a party may file an appeal to challenge the factual basis for the trial court’s decision. However, it’s important to note that appellate courts generally give deference to the trial court’s findings of fact, and reversing findings of fact on appeal can be challenging.
  3. Procedural Errors: If there were procedural errors during the trial court proceedings that may have affected the outcome of the case, such as violations of procedural rules or due process, a party might file an appeal to challenge those errors.
  4. Abuse of Discretion: If the trial court abused its discretion in making a decision, such as awarding custody, dividing property, or determining spousal or child support, a party might file an appeal to challenge the trial court’s exercise of discretion.

The grounds for filing an appeal may vary depending on the specific facts and circumstances of each case, and it is crucial to consult with an experienced appellate attorney to determine whether filing an appeal is appropriate in your particular situation.

Understanding Family Court Appeals in Pennsylvania: Common Questions Answered

If you’re dissatisfied with a family court decision in Pennsylvania, you may be wondering if you have the option to appeal, how long you have to file an appeal, how long the appeal process takes, and how much it costs. Here are some common questions about appealing a family court decision in Pennsylvania, answered.

Can you appeal a family court decision in PA?

Yes, in Pennsylvania, you generally have the right to appeal a family court decision to the superior court. The decision must be a “final decision” and includes those related to divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, and property division. The term “final decision” is defined in the case-law and statutes and is necessary for an appeal. There can be an appeal from a decision made in family court if you believe that the trial court made a legal error, abused its discretion, or if there were procedural errors during the trial court proceedings. However, it’s important to note that not all family court decisions are eligible for appeal. For example, temporary orders or decisions that are not considered final may not be appealable.

How long do you have to appeal a court decision in PA?

In Pennsylvania, the deadline for filing an appeal is generally 30 days from the entry of the final order or judgment that you are seeking to appeal. It’s crucial to adhere to this deadline as failure to file a timely appeal may result in losing your right to appeal the family court decision. However, it’s important to note that there may be exceptions or extensions to the deadline in certain circumstances, and consulting with an experienced appellate attorney can help ensure that you meet all the requirements and deadlines for filing an appeal.

How long does an appeal take in PA?

The timeline for an appeal in Pennsylvania can vary widely depending on various factors, such as the complexity of the case, the backlog of cases in the appellate court, and whether oral arguments are scheduled. In general, family court appeals in Pennsylvania can take several months to a few years to be resolved, depending on the circumstances. It’s important to be prepared for a potentially lengthy process and to manage your expectations accordingly. Appeals filed in cases involving children however, are categorized as “Children’s Fast Track Appeals” and are given priority and are scheduled more quickly than other appeals.

How much does it cost to file an appeal in PA?

Filing an appeal in Pennsylvania typically involves costs and fees. There may be filing fees associated with initiating the appeal, as well as costs associated with preparing and filing briefs, transcripts, and other documents. The total cost of filing an appeal can vary depending on the specifics of your case and the appellate court involved. It’s important to talk with your lawyer to know the potential costs associated with filing an appeal and balance this with the cost of allowing a family law decision to stand without appeal.

The process for family law appeals in Pennsylvania:

  1. Filing the Notice of Appeal: The first step in appealing a family law decision in Pennsylvania is to file a Notice of Appeal with the appropriate appellate court. The Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of the entry of the final order or judgment that you are seeking to appeal.
  2. Appellate Court Review: Once the Notice of Appeal is filed, the appellate court will review the record of the proceedings from the trial court. This includes the transcript of the trial court proceedings, any relevant documents, and the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.
  3. Briefs and Arguments: After the appellate court reviews the record, the appellant (the party appealing) will typically file a brief outlining the legal arguments supporting their appeal. The appellee (the opposing party) will then file a brief in response. There may be additional rounds of briefing, known as reply briefs and sur-reply briefs, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s requirements. Oral arguments may also be scheduled, during which the parties can present their arguments in person to the appellate court. These can be full argument or expedited argument.
  4. Appellate Court Decision: Once the briefing and oral arguments are complete, the appellate court will issue a decision. The decision may affirm, reverse, or modify the trial court’s decision. If the appellate court finds errors were made in the trial court’s proceedings, it may remand the case back to the trial court for further proceedings or a new trial.
  5. Further Appeals: If either party is dissatisfied with the appellate court’s decision, they may have the option to further appeal to a higher court, such as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, it’s important to note that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has the discretion to accept or decline appeals, and it typically only hears cases involving issues of statewide importance or cases that present novel legal questions.

The appeals process can be complex and time-consuming, and it’s generally recommended to seek the assistance of an appellate attorney who can guide you through the process and represent your interests effectively.

Example PA Family Law Appeal from 2023

In one case from 2023, a Petrelli Previtera attorney successfully challenged a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, regarding the recognition of parental rights for same-sex couples. Our client was a spouse in a same-sex marriage who entered into a contract with a sperm donation agency and was the only party identified as a legal parent in this contract. The couple separated before the baby was born, leading the non-biologically related spouse to file a pre-birth petition to confirm parentage on an emergency basis. Judge Salman of Philadelphia Court ruled that this woman was a legal parent on the basis of “contract principles”.

Our legal team did not stop there and pressed the issue for our client, requesting reconsideration from the trial judge, a stay of the trial court’s order and filing the appeal. Our client was granted a stay by the superior court of the lower court’s enforcement of the judge’s order. This decision was successfully appealed to the Superior Court. The impact for our client was she was saved from years of shared custody and litigated child support issues with her ex-spouse.

Are You Considering Appealing a Family Court Decision?

If you’re considering appealing a family court decision in Pennsylvania, it’s essential to understand the process and requirements involved. While you have the right to appeal, it’s crucial to act promptly, as there are strict deadlines for filing an appeal. It’s wise to seek the guidance of an appellate attorney who can provide you with personalized advice and representation throughout the appeals process for a family law case. With careful consideration and proper legal representation, you can navigate the family court appeals process in Pennsylvania and seek a resolution that aligns with your interests.

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