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What happens in the process of an appeal to a child custody ruling?

Knoxville, TN |

My lawyer told me that an appeal means there is a whole new trial. That it starts again from the beginning in front of a different judge as if it has never been heard. Is this the truth?

Attorney Answers 2

  1. Procedural rules for family law and other civil cases vary from state to state. A "trial de novo" on appeal is not unknown. Your own attorney is best able to provide accurate information. It is of concern that you may not have confidence in him or her, and want a second opinion on a public forum.

    Best wishes for an outcome you can accept, and please remember to designate a best answer.

    This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.

  2. You should discuss this with your lawyer and if you aren't confident with your lawyer's ability, you have some thinking to do. Not all lawyers do appeals. If he or she is an appellate attorney, then he/she knows what he/she is talking about. If not an appellate attorney and he hasn't done a lot of appeals, he may not know the specifics of taking an appeal. The appellate courts do vary from state to state, but most of them are law courts and review the law and only deal with issues of facts when there is something that the trial court did terribly wrong. That is what most appeals courts are like. They can review the facts, but they don't usually change findings of credibility and most often defer to the lower court. Has your attorney done appeals and is he/she a competent appellate attorney? That's the type of attorney you want. I handle custody cases on appeal and most often, in my state, the appellate courts will adopt the facts as the lower court has done. It's only when the facts are clearly misinterpreted by the lower court that the appeals court will overturn them on appeal based on the facts -- or, it can also happen that the mistake by the lower court may have no impact on the final outcome. Discuss this with your attorney and decide if your lawyer is comfortable doing appeals. Appellate attorneys are very specialized. We know the procedure inside and out. Perhaps it is different in TN, but if so, I'm unaware of it. Get the advice you need. Best of luck to you!

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