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How to Appeal a Family Court Decision in New Jersey

If your divorce is contested and contentious, then there is a good chance that you will not be thrilled with the Family Court’s final decision on the matter.  You may believe that the amount of alimony or child support ordered is unjustified, you may disagree with the ultimate custody arrangement, or you may feel that the division of property does not properly distribute the assets to which you believe you are entitled.  If you have a legitimate problem with a family court order, New Jersey law grants you the right to appeal the decision to a higher court.  Learn below about the process for appealing a family court decision and reach out to a dedicated Englewood family law and divorce attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.

You have the right to appeal within 45 days

In New Jersey, a final decision issued by a family court judge may be appealed as of right.  That means that you have the right to have your appeal heard by an appellate court, so long as you follow the proper procedure.  Either party may appeal.  You can only appeal a final decision as of right.  If any part of the final order is left open, such as the determination of attorneys’ fees, then you must ask the appeals court for permission to appeal now instead of waiting.   

To retain your right to appeal, you must file a Notice of Appeal, along with relevant documents, within 45 days of the entry of the Judgment.  If you miss this deadline, your appeal will likely be dismissed as untimely, unless you ask the Appellate Division for additional time (which they may or may not grant).  Once one party files an appeal, the opposing party has 15 days to file a cross-appeal.  A cross-appeal allows the other party to raise their own issues for appeal, separate from the issues brought up in the initial appeal.  As final Judgments often include some findings in favor of each party, cross-appeals are common. 

In some circumstances there may be a shorter time frame, such as if an order includes the termination of parental rights.  Your family law attorney will let you know of the proper deadline and will help you compile the necessary documents and draft the necessary papers to file your appeal. 

Appeals process

Your appeal will go to the New Jersey Appellate Division.  Your appeal can be based on errors in procedure, insufficiency of the evidence, or other specific legal errors committed by the court during the pendency of your case.  Remember that you must convince the Appellate Division that the family court did something wrong.

Your appeal must be based on evidence already in the record–everything said by witnesses, a transcript of the court proceedings, the evidence submitted, legal briefs filed, etc.  You will not be bringing new evidence before the appeals court, and there will be no new testimony.  The Appellate Court will take some time to review the evidence and will set a date for oral argument.  At oral argument, each party to the appeal will have a chance to argue their side of the specific issues on appeal.

What can happen after an appeal

The Appellate Division has three options in fielding an appeal:  affirm the lower court’s decision; reverse the decision; or reverse the decision and remand for further proceedings.  If the court affirms the decision, the lower court’s decision stands, and the matter ends.  If the Appellate Division simply reverses the lower court’s decision, then depending on the issue, the matter may end with the other side prevailing (e.g., if a restraining order was issued and the target successfully appeals, then the restraining order will not be issued).

Typically, if the Appellate Division reverses a specific finding, it will remand for further proceedings.  For example, if the appeals court finds that there was an error in how custody was determined, or in how alimony was calculated (e.g., some asset was included that should have been excluded), then the appeals court will send it back to the family court for further proceedings that are consistent with the results of the appeal (e.g., recalculate alimony based on the appellate decision).  If the Appellate Division overturns the entire Order, then the family court must hold a brand new trial on all issues.

Help with Family Law Trials and Appeals in New Jersey

For dedicated and effective legal help with a New Jersey divorce, custodial dispute, or other family law matter, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.