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Can you appeal or modify your judgment from family court?

In family law court, as with many things in life, decisions are not always final. If your case is settled but the decision is unfavorable to you, you can request that your attorney look into an appeal.

Of course, there have to be legitimate and compelling reasons for the court's decision to be appealed at the higher level. Simply being dissatisfied with a judge's ruling does not necessitate an appeal. Attorneys file briefs with the appellate court that argue why the ruling was unfair. Briefs are supported with statutory and case law references that apply to your case, and your attorney notes instances where the lower court judge applied North Carolina's law incorrectly, resulting in the unfavorable decision.

Sometimes there will be oral arguments held in an appeal. However, more often than not the appellate judges review both attorneys' briefs and then make their ruling. Under most circumstances, the appellate court relies on the lower court's record of the trial and there are relatively few instances where it is germane to allow new evidence to be presented. Very few family law cases will ever advance further than the appellate level.

Appeals in family law cases occur when the cases are litigated and not settled, as there is very little wiggle room for an ex-spouse to challenge a settlement upon which both parties originally agreed. That's why it's very important to communicate clearly and effectively with your family law attorney to make sure that he or she knows your position on key issues when negotiating a settlement.

However, courts recognize that familial circumstances change as children grow and develop different needs, so it is possible to return to court with your attorney and request a modification to a custody, visitation or child support judgment in the event that substantial changes have taken place.

Source: FindLaw, "Appeals and Motions to Modify the Divorce Judgment," accessed Aug. 19, 2016

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