Yes, you can appeal a family court decision in Oklahoma or any state. When a person or family is considering an appeal from a family court decision, they are likely very frustrated with an outcome at the trial court level. In order to effectively initiate a family law court appeal, there are multiple specific steps that must be met on a specific timeline, in order for Oklahoma appellate courts to have jurisdiction over your divorce or family court proceeding.

Oklahoma Family Court Appeals

 This information is only a cursory examination of the process for considering and actually filing a family law court appeal. This summary applies to family law court or civil court appeals only. There are other specific rules and/or considerations you must evaluate for a criminal appeal, interlocutory appeal, or other matter. Each necessary step in the process of a family law appeal will be discussed briefly; however, for more specific information, you should speak to an experienced family law appellate attorney. 

Do You have Grounds for a Family Law Appeal?

Unfortunately, in Oklahoma not liking the judge’s decision in your family law trial or divorce trial is not a valid basis for relief on appeal. However, if the family law judge misinterpreted the law or another error occurred in your family law trial, then you may be entitled to relief on appeal. The following are the most common basis for an appeal in a divorce trial or family law trial. Keep in mind, this list is not exhaustive; however, it covers most of the appellate issues that warrant relief in family law appeals:

  • Misapplication of the Law
  • Constitutional Violations
  • Lack of Evidence to Support the Family Law Judge’s Decision
  • Abuse of Discretion by the Family Law Judge
  • Wrong Evidentiary Rulings on Critical Points
  • Failure to Properly Consider Best Interest of the Child Factors

Seek Experienced Oklahoma Family Law Appeals Attorney

Not all Oklahoma divorce attorneys handle appeals, as they process is complex and requires a type of written advocacy that is not common in divorce court or child custody cases. You need an experienced family law appeals attorney, if you are seeking to overturn a district court judge’s decision in your family law case. 

Your Fierce Advocates™ at Cannon & Associates are dedicated to clients seeking relief on appeal in a family law case. We have represented many clients through appeals and would be glad to meet with you, answer your questions, and help you determine if a family law appeal is right for you. 

Contact Cannon & Associates by completing the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-657-2323 for a free confidential strategy session and answers to your questions about Oklahoma family law appeals.

Considerations Prior to seeking an Appeal

You should meet with an experienced family law appellate attorney prior to filing any appeal from an adverse judgment in any family law proceeding. In some instances you may ask the court to reconsider an issue; however, proceed with caution. There is a serious risk of missing a procedural timeline to file an appeal, if the Court determines that your appeal was filed to long after the Court original order, which you are seeking to appeal. 

One important consideration in family law appeals is that you must raise every issue, you want to preserve for appeal, if you seek a new trial at the district court level. You will only be able to raise issues on appeal that were in your motion for a new trial. Therefore, you should not only raise the issues in a motion for new trial, which you believe may warrant a new trial. Rather, you should raise every issue you have with the family law judge’s initial ruling in order to preserve each issue on appeal. 

The deadline to file your appeal is one of the most important considerations in what you do at the district court level prior to filing your family law appeal. Only certain issues raised in post-judgment motions extend your deadline to file an appeal. The majority of post-trial motions in family law cases do not extend your timeline. Failure to timely file your appeal will bar your access to appellate review, unless post-conviction relief is granted in district court and the appellate court for your failure to timely file your appeal. Granted or not, missing a deadline is not the best way to begin the family law appellate process. 

Filing Your Family Court Appeal

The first step in filing a family law court appeal is preparing and filing your Petition in Error with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. It is the catalyst to the process of any appeal in a civil case. The Petition in Error is a simply document that summarizes the issues before the appellate court for review, explains the type of family law case on appeal, and a general outline of the issues and facts before the appellate court. Additionally, your Petition in Error for your family law appeal must explain the procedural posture, series of events, in your family law case. 

Timing is critical to preserving your appeal and in most cases, you have 30 days from the date the challenged order is filed with the district court. Identifying what constitutes the final order, starting the clock for your appeal is very important. Typically, the court minute from trial is not sufficient to start the clock. However, you should speak to your family law appellate attorney to ensure this deadline is met. Failure to file your Petition in Error by the deadline is a waiver of your right to appeal.

Compiling the Record

Appellate courts do not conduct a new trial or hear from witnesses. Rather, appellate courts review the transcripts and rulings from the family law trial or the district court record to reach their decision. Therefore, it is up to the party seeking an appeal to provide the family law appeals court with the record. 

At the same time as your Petition in Error is being drafted and filed, your family law appellate attorney must file a Designation of Record at the trial court level. Your Designation of Record is how you “designate” or tell the district court clerk what transcripts, pleadings filed in the case, and orders of the court are necessary for appeal. 

Additionally, the opposing party in your appeal, the Respondent, is able to provide a separate Designation of Record, which directs the district court clerk to compile any additional materials for appellate review, not identified by the appealing party.

All this to say, a well-built record is crucial to your chances for success on appeal, as the appellate court will not take any additional or new evidence into consideration. Additionally, any hearings that took place, relevant to your family law appeal, cannot be considered, unless there is a record of the proceedings. We advise you make a record with a court reporter at every hearing during your family law or divorce case and that court minutes and journal entries in your case be very specific, as these court orders are subject to appellate review. 

 Once you file your Designation of the Record with the district court clerk, the clerk’s office has six months to compile the record for appeal in your family law appeal. The appellant, party bringing the appeal, is responsible for ensuring the clerk completes the record timely. Therefore, you want to ensure the family law appellate attorney you work with must stay in contact with the clerk’s office. Additionally, the appellant is responsible for ensuring all court reporters that transcribed a proceeding, in the Designation of Record, receive the Designation of Record and draft the transcripts timely, which usually requires paying for the transcript before the work is done.

The Briefing Process

Once the Petition in Error and Designation of Record, discussed above, are filed, it is time to start briefing the appeal. It is a best practice to immediately begin outlining and researching for the appeal, even though you do not have the transcript back yet to cite to the record. 

You only have 60 days once the record is complete, as the appellate seeking relief on appeal, to finish and file your brief in chief. The brief in chief is your best opportunity to explain to the appellate court what errors occurred at the trial court level in your family law case, which warrant relief from the appellate court. 

Once the appellant’s brief in chief is filed, the respondent or appellee has 40 days to file an answer brief. The answer brief or response brief is the most important pleading by the respondent to the appeal, as you are not entitled to a second brief, unless given permission by the court. 

In most cases, the final brief is a reply brief by the appellant that brought the appeal. Although you are entitled to file a reply brief it is not always wise to do so. When you have made your best points in your opening brief, you should not waste the appellate court’s time by repeating yourself. The reply brief should only be filed, if the respondent brings up an issue or argument you believe warrants a reply. 

Finally, in very few cases, the appellate court in your family case may grant the respondent a sur reply, which is a second opportunity to submit a brief by the respondent. You should speak to an experienced appellate family law attorney before seeking permission for a sur reply.  

Assignment and Opinion

Oklahoma has an interested appellate procedure, in which every case on appeal is originally taken by the Oklahoma Supreme Court; however, almost all cases are assigned to a division of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. Family law appeals before the intermediate appellate court are assigned to a panel of three judges, they will review all the briefs, decide the case, and draft an opinion on the issues on appeal. 

The opinion in your family law case appeal will either affirm the family law trial court’s decision or overturn the decision with instructions for the district court to enter the appropriate court orders, dictated by the appellate court. Although parties appealing a family law decision have strict timelines to submit pleadings and procedural matters, the appellate court is not bound by any timelines.  Therefore, the next step is waiting for the Court to issue the opinion in your family law appeal. 

Additional Appeals in Family Law Cases

In addition to the process discussed above, you are entitled to “ask for review” by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, if the decision on appeal is averse to you. The process to seek additional appellate review in a family law case is the same as any other civil case, you must file a Writ of Certiorari to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Additionally, you may ask the court that heard your appeal to reconsider its decision. 

On Certiorari, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has complete discretion to “grant cert” and review your case or deny your request and close your appeal. In cases where the Oklahoma Supreme Court elects to grant certiorari, the Court will either affirm or reverse the Court of Civil Appeals.

Finally, if you are granted Certiorari and receive an outcome that you are not satisfied with, you have 90 days to seek additional review by the Supreme Court, if you have grounds to do so. Once you have exhausted state court remedies, you may seek review by the Supreme Court of the United States; however, this is again discretionary certiorari review; hardly ever granted. Therefore, you should consult with an experienced Oklahoma appellate family law attorney before seeking certiorari. 

Final Opinion

Once all avenues of relief are exhausted, including the time to file a request for reconsideration or a Writ for Certiorari, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will issue a mandate in your case. The mandate is the order returning your case to the district court for the lower court to implement the orders of the appellate court and if necessary, additional proceedings. Most people are not aware; however, the ruling of the appellate court, i.e. a favorable opinion on your behalf, is not in force or effect until the mandate is issued. You may take comfort in winning your family law appeal; however, it is not the order of the Court until all review is exhausted and the mandate has been issued. 

Family Law Appeals Process Conclusion

The rules and procedure that govern family law appeals in Oklahoma are strict; however, by working with an experienced family law appeals attorney, you stand the best chance of complying with all the rules to ensure your appeal is heard and that you present the strongest argument possible in your case.

What an Appeal Is—and Isn’t

The idea that appealing an unfavorable legal decision means automatically getting a new trial or a new judge is a common misconception. An appeal isn’t a second trial; it’s an official request to have the original decision reviewed by a higher court. During the appeals process, the appellate court will reconsider your case based on a review of the original evidence. However, no new or additional evidence can be introduced.

Contact Your Fierce Advocatesô for Family Law Appeals

Losing your family law case is stressful by itself; however, facing the process on a family law appeal can be even more difficult. It is important to ensure the family law appeals attorneys you work with are experienced in family law appeals and can help walk you through the process detailed above. Cannon & Associates has the legal experience in family law appeals you need to help you seek relief on appeal in your family law case. 

Contact Cannon & Associates by completing the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-657-2323 for a free confidential strategy session and answers to your questions about Oklahoma family law appeals.