Can You Appeal a Custody Decision in Texas?
When a family court case goes to trial, one of the people involved may be disappointed with the decision. In a custody case, a bad outcome could mean you can’t see your child as often as you’d like. You think the court’s decision is not in your child’s best interest and want to challenge their decision. You may wonder, Can you appeal a custody decision in Texas?
Technically, you can appeal a final custody decision. However, an appeals court rarely overturns a family court decision. You must show that the family court made a significant legal error in their decision. Plus, you must follow a time-sensitive process for appealing a custody decision. You should speak with an experienced family appeals lawyer for guidance immediately.
What Is an Appeal in a Child Custody Case?
In an appeal, you ask a higher court to review a lower court’s final decision because you believe the lower court made a legal error. Here, you’d ask the Texas Appeals Court to review the District Court’s decision.
What Is a Final Decision?
You need a final order signed by the judge. You can’t file an appeal if the judge hasn’t decided the case. Nor can you appeal a child custody decision that is temporary.
Perhaps, you and the other parent settled your case. You may wonder, Can you appeal a custody decision in Texas if the parties agreed on it? Generally, you can’t appeal a custody settlement.
What Is a Legal Error?
Being unhappy with a case’s outcome is not the basis for an appeal. You must have a legal reason why the decision was incorrect. To file an appeal in a Texas Appellate Court, you’ll have to show that the judge abused their discretion or that there was insufficient evidence to support the decision. These standards are not easy to prove.
Proving an abuse of discretion requires showing that a judge made a significant error that impacted their decision. An example of an abuse of discretion is if the judge did not allow a critical witness to testify. Another example is if a judge’s decision clearly contradicts the law.
The bar is also high for showing that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support a custody decision. If, for example, the judge relied on a witness you didn’t think was credible, that alone doesn’t mean the decision was improper. If the judge relied on evidence that wasn’t on the record, an appeals court might consider this insufficient evidence.
No New Issues or New Evidence
Your lawyer must have objected to the judge’s bad decisions during the trial to be able to appeal those decisions. Plus, you can’t use any new evidence for your appeal. You can only use evidence introduced at trial.
How to File a Child Custody Appeal
The process for appealing a child custody case can be time-, labor-, and cost-intensive.
First, you must file a notice of appeal with the trial clerk within 30 days of the decision. You must also file a docketing statement with the appellate court. You can ask the court to waive appeal fees if you qualify. The trial court clerk and reporter then prepare and send the case record to the appellate court. There are fees associated with this too.
Within 30 days of the appellate court receiving the record, you must file the appellant brief and other documents. The appellant brief argues why the family court decision was incorrect. The other side will then have 30 days to file an opposition brief. Then, you have an additional 20 days to reply.
You may ask for an oral argument in front of the appellate court. However, the court can sometimes decide your case without an oral argument.
The appellate court will then issue a decision. It can decide to uphold the trial court’s decision, reverse it, or send it back for a new trial or other proceedings. Most often, an appellate court upholds a judge’s decision on a custody case. However, this depends on the individual circumstances of the case, and we can discuss with you the odds of winning your case on appeal.
Contact the Larson Law Office with Appeals Questions
Appealing a child custody decision in Texas is very complicated and time-sensitive. Plus, it is very difficult to get an appellate court to overturn a custody order, especially without the help of an experienced attorney. The Larson Law Office can help you understand the family court appeals process and also explore your other options if you are unhappy with a custody decision. Contact us today.