The Wisconsin Rules of Appellate Procedure apply to the proceedings, which are very different from what you experienced when going through a family law trial. However, when successful, you may be able to have a disagreeable order reversed, get a rehearing, or other forms of appellate relief.
If you believe that errors or legal inconsistencies were behind a family law court order, time is of the essence to retain experienced counsel for assistance with an appeal. Trials are certainly complicated, but the level of complexity increases significantly with the appellate process. Our team at Karp & Iancu, S.C. is knowledgeable about the relevant laws and experienced in handling family law appeals, so please contact us right away. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our Kenosha appeals attorneys, but some basic information is also helpful.
Summary of Appeals in Wisconsin Family Law Cases
Initially, you should note that an appeal is not a chance for a do-over of the trial. Parties do not get the opportunity to supply new evidence, add to the facts, or raise new arguments. In addition, the appellate process is not a means of modifying an order entered by a family court. There is a separate process for modification of orders when a party experiences a substantial change in circumstances.
Instead, an appeal is a review of what happened at the trial level, to assess whether there were errors that led the court to rule in a certain way. Trial judges are tasked with evaluating a considerable amount of information, and they are often required to make decisions on-demand during the proceeding. Mistakes are possible under the intense circumstances surrounding litigation; the appellate process is an opportunity to correct them. When an appeals court reviews a family law case, the remedy may be:
- Affirming and upholding the trial court’s finding, which basically says the appellate court did not find an error or determined that a mistake did not affect the outcome;
- Reversing the lower court’s ruling and returning the case to the trial judge for a new trial or additional proceedings; OR
- Affirming some parts of the trial court order and reversing others.
Family Law Orders Subject to Appeal
It is possible to request appellate review in a wide range of circumstances, except those orders that cover a stipulation or agreement. An appeal is NOT intended for purposes of retracting something that you consented to in a family law case. There may be other options for addressing such a situation, and our team can discuss strategies.
The appellate process is appropriate for family court orders at different stages of the case:
Final Orders: You can file an appeal when the judge ruled against your interests and entered a final order accordingly. An order is considered final when it disposes of the entire case, having resolved all substantive issues that were in dispute. For instance, it is possible to appeal:
- A judgment awarding alimony;
- The court’s order on equally dividing community property;
- A judgment covering child custody or visitation;
- The final order in a paternity case; and
- Post-divorce modification orders.
Non-Final Orders: During a family law case, there may be multiple hearings and proceedings that take place before the matter concludes. The outcome of these interim proceedings is a non-final order, since there are still unresolved issues. You can only appeal a non-final order by permission – of the appellate court, not the trial judge. The term for these proceedings is “interlocutory” appeal, and they are only allowed when the trial court’s interim order would impact the outcome of what will become the final order.
An example of an interlocutory appeal is the judge’s finding on community versus separate property. The distinction will ultimately impact the equal division of community property, so any mistakes should be resolved before getting to the final order.
Legal Help with the Appellate Process
At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we have several team members in our Appellate Practice Group who focus on appeals in family law cases. You can rely on our Kenosha appeals lawyer to provide legal support and take care of all essential tasks throughout the proceedings.
Our strategy will depend on whether you are the appellant requesting review or the appellee, who will be seeking for the trial court’s order to be affirmed. However, it is useful to understand the general process:
- Notice of Appeal: This document must be filed within 90 days after an adverse order was entered by the trial court, though it is wise to kick off the appellate process as soon as possible.
- Request the Trial Court Record: Upon filing the Notice of Appeal, you must notify the trial court and get a copy of the record. This package consists of all documents, exhibits, and transcripts that were before the trial court during the proceedings below.
- Submit Briefs: Our lawyers will prepare a document that details the errors the court made, and why the decision should be reversed or remanded. If you are the appellee, we will submit a brief describing why the order should be affirmed.
- Oral Arguments: In some appellate cases, the judge may request the parties to attend a hearing to answer questions or gain clarification.
At the conclusion of the appeal, the appellate court will enter a written decision. Depending on the outcome of affirm, reverse, and/or remand, you may take the case to the next level by requesting review by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.