Appealing a Family Court Decision in North Carolina

Written by Jonathan Breeden

March 29, 2019

Family law matters, including divorce and child custody, are handled in the North Carolina District Court Division. If you received a decision from a family court judge who made a significant error, an appeal might be warranted. Such mistakes include the court not knowing that your spouse had a domestic violence conviction when determining custody, or the court not performing the proper legal analysis when deciding alimony.

At Breeden Law Office, we can help you find a family law appellate attorney who will determine if an appeal is reasonable. Because the trial judge is given broad discretion in certain situations, the court’s decision is hard to overturn – no matter how much you disagree with it. In addition, the proceedings may take a year or more, and can be costly. If you are considering an appeal, you must seek help quickly.

The best way to avoid the need for an appeal is to retain the help of a family lawyer at the beginning of your case. If you believe you are a candidate for such an appeal, attorney Jonathan Breeden can help you assess the situation, and advise your next steps in finding an experienced appellate attorney. Contact Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970 to learn more.

Rules of Filing An Appeal

An appeal of your family court decision begins with a Notice of Appeal. This document must be filed with the North Carolina Court of Appeals within 30 days of receipt of the trial court’s final order. An exception to filing with the NC Court of Appeals is when appealing a termination of parental rights. In this situation, the notice is filed directly with the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Because appeals are governed by many complex legal rules, it is essential you work closely with an experienced appeals attorney at Breeden Law Office. Besides the Notice of Appeal, the Record on Appeal must be compiled and submitted to the court. Your attorney will also file a brief that discusses your legal arguments as to why you believe the lower court decision was incorrect.

The Role of the Court of Appeals

Once both parties have filed their legal documents, a three-judge panel will review the record and arguments. Most family court appeals do not have an oral argument where your attorney presents your case in-person. The court will likely make its ruling based on the written record.

The appeals court will not make a new ruling in your case. Instead, it will review the record and arguments to determine if the court made a mistake or abused its discretion. Should the panel find reversible errors, the lower court decision is overturned. Your case is then sent back to the district court to be re-determined in light of the ruling of the appeals court.

Because the appeals court does not consider “new evidence,” it is essential that your attorney presents all the relevant evidence and makes every important argument when necessary. That is why having competent counsel at every stage of your family court matter is essential.

Contact an NC Family Lawyer for Help

Few matters are more stressful than issues involving your family. Whether you are concerned the court wrongly decided marital property distribution or child custody and support, you may be struggling with what to do next. Talking to a lawyer from Breeden Law Office can give you the information needed to decide on an attorney who can walk you through your case with compassion, while also keeping you informed every step of the way.

If you’re considering whether or not a family law appeal is right for you, contact attorney Jonathan Breeden at (919) 661-4970 to learn how he can help you find the right appellate lawyer for your case.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden