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  • What happens when I file an appeal?
    An appeal begins by filing a written notice of appeal and paying the required filing fees. Sometimes the appellate court orders the parties to participate in its mediation program. If mediation is not required or is unsuccessful, the appeals court issues an order that the appeal proceed. The appealing party is then responsible for ordering and paying the cost of transcripts of the trial and other relevant proceedings. The Circuit Court clerk will send the record - including pleadings, transcripts, and trial exhibits - to the Court of Special Appeals. Upon receipt of the record, the Court of Special Appeals will send a notice of the briefing and oral argument schedule. The appellant’s brief is generally due in 40 days, and then the appellee's brief 30 days later, and finally, the appellant’s reply brief is due 15 or 20 days later. Once all the briefs are in, the court may hear oral argument. After hearing oral argument, the Court of Special Appeals will issue its opinion weeks or months later. In an expedited case, such as child custody or visitation, the decision is required to be made within 60 days after the oral argument (or submission of the case on the briefs without oral argument). Generally, the appellate court’s opinion will either affirm (uphold) the lower court ruling or reverse the lower court’s ruling and remand the case back to the lower court with instructions on how to proceed to address and correct the error. The appeals process can be very complicated, but hiring an experienced appellate attorney will empower you to navigate the process confidently and give you the best chance at achieving your desired outcome.
  • How long does an appeal take?
    Appeals take many months before they are completed. Certain types of appeals, such as those dealing with child custody or visitation, can be expedited, but even expedited cases involve a long and detailed process. If the appellate court orders mediation, this may cause further delay if the mediation is unsuccessful. When the appeal proceeds, transcripts must be ordered; evidence, pleadings, and motions that were before the trial court must be compiled and transmitted to the appellate court; the appellate attorney must carefully read the transcripts and record and conduct detailed legal research to prepare and submit a brief on the specific legal issue(s) that will be before the appellate court. Then, the appellate court may schedule oral arguments. Finally, the appellate court will issue a written response, which also takes time.
  • What can’t I appeal?
    Appellate courts handle legal and factual errors made by the trial court, not necessarily mistakes made by your trial counsel or the opposing party, and not every ruling is appealable. In most cases, the trial court must have issued a final ruling. Even if you have an eligible case, appeals must be filed in a timely manner, so if you let the clock run out, you may forfeit your right to appeal. If your case is not eligible for appeal or you do not have grounds for an appeal, you may still have other recourse, such as a motion for reconsideration. An appellate attorney can help you figure out if you have an appealable decision and if you don’t, direct you to other resources that may be available to potentially change the outcome of your family law case.
  • How do I preserve my record for an appeal?
    A successful appeal begins with preserving the record in the trial court. Trial attorneys are usually focused on winning strategies for trial, and a potential appeal is but an afterthought. However, the general rule in appellate review is that an issue must be plainly raised in, or decided by, the trial court in order for the appellate court to review it. To preserve your record, ensure that your trial attorney: Responds to any errors by making proper objections and proffers of evidence; Raises significant issues to be decided by the court (and makes sure the court rules on those issues); and Makes any off-the-record communications between counsel and the court part of the record. Finally, preserve your right to appellate review by timely filing your notice of appeal when you think the lower court got it wrong.
  • What if I have new evidence?
    An appeal is not a re-trial of your case, so the appellate court will not accept new evidence or listen to new witnesses. The purpose of an appeal is to ask a higher court to reverse the trial court’s decision. The appellate court will review the record and briefs and may hear oral arguments to determine if the trial judge made a prejudicial legal or factual error that affected the final decision, or whether the trial judge abused their discretion in their decision.
  • How much does it cost?
    Appeals can be expensive. There is just no getting around this reality. To start, the appellant (the person filing the appeal) is responsible for paying for a transcript and for all the work involved in preparing the record extract (a copy of all of the important papers reviewed by the trial court). Then, there’s your attorney’s time. Appeals are an advanced area of legal practice and are hard work. Your appellate attorney must read, organize, conduct extensive legal research, and draft a compelling brief that will persuade a set of judges to take a close look at the determination made by the trial court. This is all before your attorney ever even steps foot inside a courtroom. The careful review, research, and drafting involved in filing an appeal requires days of your attorney’s time, which is a serious commitment for both your appellate attorney and your checkbook.
  • What is an appeal?
    Just like your family law matter is not the end of your story, an unfavorable trial court decision doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of your case. If you disagree with the decision a trial court made in your family law case, whether because it was unfavorable to you, you find it confusing, or you believe a legal or factual error was made, you may have some recourse in the form of an appeal – a legal process by which you can request that a higher court (or a panel of Circuit Court judges) review and possibly reverse the trial court’s decision. Appeals are complicated and time sensitive, so if you think you may want to file an appeal, consult a qualified appellate attorney right away for help navigating the intricacies of the appeals process, and to ensure you understand and can exercise your rights.
  • Should I hire my trial attorney to be my appellate counsel?
    It depends. In some cases, your trial counsel may be the best choice, but in others, an experienced appellate attorney will be more effective. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether you need a new attorney to handle your appeal. Many attorneys have very busy trial practices and may not have the time to devote to handling your appeal. Appeals are an intricate, nuanced area of law, and your trial attorney may not have the knowledge or the experience to handle your appeal. Appeals are based on what was actually presented to the trial court — not what was intended to be presented or what you may recall was presented. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can see the facts of your case in a new light.
  • Will an appeal stop the trial court’s decision or order from going into effect?
    Not automatically. In order to stop a court’s decision or order from going into effect while you appeal your case, you (and your attorney) must file either a supersedeas bond that provides certain financial protections for the non-appealing party if the appeal is unsuccessful, or a motion to stay, but there is no guarantee that the court will grant your motion.
  • What if the opposing party is trying to appeal a decision that is favorable to me?
    Both parties in a legal case have a right to appeal, so even if the trial court decision is favorable to you, you may still find yourself tangled up in the appeals process if your opposing party files an appeal. An appellate attorney can guide you through the process when you’re compelled to respond to an appeal by the opposing party.
  • How much time do I have to file an appeal?
    Timing is critical in an appeal. Many appeals have been tossed out or disregarded because a lawyer or appellant has failed to adhere to strict deadlines. The amount of time you have to file an appeal depends on the type of case. Most commonly, you have 30 days to file an appeal following the date the trial court’s judgment is entered. If you fail to timely file your notice of appeal and pay the filing fees, you lose the right to appeal. The deadline to file an appeal may be automatically extended where a party has timely filed certain post-judgment motions, such as a motion to alter or amend the court’s decision, within ten days after the court's judgment is entered. Another form of appeal, called an in banc appeal, which asks a three judge panel in the trial court to review the trial court’s ruling, must be filed within ten days after the trial court’s judgment. As soon as you receive an adverse ruling, if an appeal is something you are considering, it is best to seek the advice of an appellate attorney immediately so they can advise you of your many options and the important deadlines to adhere to and help guide you through the process.
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