Can I Appeal My Connecticut Family Law Case?

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

The Judge Issued a Decision in My Connecticut Family Law Case: Can I Appeal?

In Connecticut, you have the right to appeal a final judgment entered by a trial court.  Common final judgments subject to appeal in family law cases are final judgments from orders dissolving the marriage, including permanent orders regarding alimony, child support, and custody, and orders regarding the division of assets.  Post-judgment decisions, such as those regarding the modification of alimony, child support, and custody, are also appealable.

When Must I File My Appeal?

The deadline for filing an appeal is no later than twenty days after the court issues notice of its decision.  It is not advisable to wait until the last day to appeal, as missing the deadline, even inadvertently, can be fatal to your appeal.  Therefore, you should seek the advice of an appellate practitioner who does family law appellate work immediately after receiving a decision from the trial court.

My Ex-Spouse is Filing an Appeal: Do I Need to Do Anything?

If you are not the person appealing the decision, you need to ensure that your rights are protected during the pendency of the appeal.  You should consult with an appellate lawyer in order to understand the basis for your former spouse’s appeal, any potential weaknesses in the judge’s decision that make the decision vulnerable to being overturned on appeal, and what your best arguments in defense are.

In What Court is an Appeal Decided?

Most appeals are heard by the Connecticut Appellate Court.  Rarely, a case will be reviewed by the Connecticut Supreme Court without being heard first by the Appellate Court.  Direct review of a trial court decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court can sometimes occur when there is an issue that has never been decided by Connecticut Appellate Court or the Connecticut Supreme Court, when there is conflicting law on a particular subject matter, or when there is a matter of public importance worthy of decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Will the Appeal be Similar to the Trial?

The appellate process is very different from the trial process.  There is no new evidence or new testimony at the Appellate Court.  Each party submits thorough briefs outlining the facts of the case and the legal arguments in support of his or her positions.  The briefs are based on the record, consisting of the testimony from the trial court proceedings and any exhibits submitted to the trial court.  The appellant, i.e., the person taking the appeal, submits his or her brief first.  After the appellee submits his or her brief, the appellant has the opportunity to file a Reply Brief.  After all of the briefs are submitted, the Appellate Court will schedule a date for oral argument before a panel of Appellate judges.  At the Appellate Court, the panel typically consists of three judges.  At the Supreme Court, the panel consists of seven justices.   A party may attend oral argument, but is not required to do so.  After oral argument, the Appellate Court (or Supreme Court, as the case may be) will issue its Decision in writing.  The Decision is usually released several months after oral argument takes place.

How Long Will My Connecticut Appeal Take?

The appellate process in Connecticut can take several months, at least.  Some appeals can last over one year.

Can My Case Be Settled While an Appeal is Pending?

Your case can be settled at any time before the appeal is decided by the Appellate Court. Experienced litigators will explore potential avenues for settlement, if possible, in order to avoid the expense and time of an appeal.  In most family law cases, the Appellate Court will schedule the case for a Preargument Conference prior to briefs being due.  The Preargument Conference is a confidential settlement opportunity that takes place with an experienced judge who will meet with counsel for both parties and attempt to help the parties reach a settlement.  Whether you and your ex-spouse reach a settlement through the Preargument Conference or on your own, you can prepare a settlement agreement and the appeal can be withdrawn once the settlement is approved by the trial court.

Broder & Orland LLC provides appellate representation in addition to litigating at the trial court level.  If you are contemplating an appeal, contact Sarah E. Murray, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Center for Family Law Appeals.