Should I Appeal My Child Custody Order?

Many people have been following Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt's divorce and custody battle since 2016. Recently it was announced that their judge awarded them joint custody of their minor children, despite Jolie seeking sole custody. In the wake of this news, it has been speculated that Jolie will attempt to appeal the ruling, citing displeasure with the court's decision not to allow the children to testify, among other issues.

As a result of this high-profile case, many people have asked whether you can appeal a child custody ruling and when it is appropriate to do so. Below we review how appeals work and why someone might need to appeal their custody ruling.

Situations in Which an Appeal May Be Appropriate

The appeals process is reserved for situations where someone believes that a legal mistake was made during their case that affected the case's final outcome or in situations where. For example, a law was misapplied or misinterpreted that affected the judge's ruling. Other reasons for an appeal can include factual errors, a lack of evidence to support a ruling, or abuse of the court's discretion.

It is important to remember that the appeals process is taken very seriously, and simply being unhappy with a ruling is not an appropriate reason to appeal. It should also be noted that the appeals process is not a new trial. Instead, the appellate courts will review the facts of the case and determine if an error or mistake was made during the original proceedings.

To learn more about appealing family court rulings, review our blog here.

What to Do If You Are Unhappy with Your Custody Order

If you believe your custody order is unfair or inappropriate for your situation, you should reach out to an attorney. Even if you do not qualify for an appeal, you may have other legal options to pursue. For example, you may be better off filing a motion to reconsider the order or to vacate the judgment. Your attorney can review your case and help you determine the best path forward.

Though it can be frustrating, you may have to live with your custody order until you can petition for a modification. Child custody and visitation modifications are used when a parent or child's circumstance has substantially changed, making the original order inadequate.

Potential grounds for a modification include:

  • Relocation
  • A change in employment
  • A change in work hours
  • The child's needs have significantly changed
  • The parent's health has substantively changed
  • A parent has retired

To have grounds for a modification, the change in circumstances has to not only be significant but lasting. It must also be clear how the modification will serve the best interests of the child. Again, just as with appeals, it's important to remember that being dissatisfied with a child custody order does not constitute grounds for a modification.

What You Shouldn't Do

If you are unhappy with your custody order, it is important that you do not let your feelings get in the way of complying with the order. Failure to comply with a custody order has serious consequences, and the last thing you want to do is return to court because you refused to follow your court-ordered custody agreement.

You should also avoid venting about your displeasure with the custody agreement in front of or to your children. This includes bad-mouthing or speaking negatively about their other parent. Doing so can put children in a difficult position and cause them undue stress and anxiety. Furthermore, it can potentially lead to an accusation of parental alienation be levied against you.

Dealing with a custody ruling that you believe to be unfair or incorrect can be incredibly challenging. The best thing you can do is consult with an experienced attorney, like ours at Burch Shepard Family Law Group. With years of experience behind us, we are prepared to help you with your case. Reach out to our law firm online to schedule a consultation.