When you decide to appeal a family court judgment, you must work with a lawyer with appellate experience.

Working in the appeals courts requires a different type of experience and knowledge than that which lawyers need for family courts and other lower courts. In a family court or criminal court, for example, the emphasis is on convincing the court of the facts as you see them. Once judgment is passed, and a case moves to an appellate court, the focus is on whether or not the law was applied correctly in reaching the original decision. An appellate court determines this by examining written records of the original court proceedings, the strength of one or two very carefully written briefs, and sometimes, a short oral argument. 

To navigate successfully through this process, an appellate lawyer needs excellent knowledge of the appellate process, exceptional powers of written argument, a fresh perspective on the case, and an approach to oral argument that is completely different to that which is used in a trial. This is because a trial is more focused on the legal process than on the facts of the case.

What does an appellate lawyer do?

An appellate lawyer approaches your case without having had any previous exposure to it. With a completely fresh perspective, appellate lawyers do not concern themselves so much with the facts in the original case. Instead, they examine the process that the court followed to reach its decision, and determine whether this procedure was carried out legally and correctly. Once they see problems with judgment and the manner in which it was reached, they formulate an argument to convince the appeals court justice of the error. An appellate attorney’s main purpose is to write a compelling written argument that, together with the records from the original case, will convince the appellate court that the case was concluded incorrectly or unjustly and needs to be referred back to the family court.

Why do appellate lawyers make the difference?

Appellate lawyers bring several key skills to the case, which the original family law attorney may lack. These include:

  • A fresh perspective, including a different way of looking at the case, with a focus on the procedure followed by the family law court.
  • A thorough understanding of the appellate process, which can be confusing, even for lawyers who are accomplished and experienced in other fields.
  • Exceptional powers of written argument, since the success of an appeal depends on this.
  • An approach to oral argument that differs from that used by other lawyers. Oral argument is not always necessary in appeals cases but, where it is applicable, it must be conducted in a very different way to the arguments heard in trial court. The emphasis is on legal and procedural matters, rather than on the facts and details of the original case. The rhetorical methods used to present to a jury are not useful in appellate courts.

Westover Law Group is a company of family law attorneys serving Southern California. Our appellate lawyers are capable of taking your appeal through the appellate system, provided you have a strong case. Contact us to speak to a lawyer with appellate experience, and see how we can help you with your family law appeals and related questions.