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What is the procedure to appeal a California courts child custody decision?

Hemet, CA |

My daughter filed for primary custody after a bitter divorce. As the parents could not come to a custody agreement, a mediator's evaluation was done. His report overwhelmingly recommended custody for the mother. The hearing brought out all his salient points. But the judge decided to award custody to the father, based solely on evidence that the child had spent a majority of his 4 years in the city where the father lives (the mother lives 130 miles away). How can this be protested? My daugher's lawyer said an appeal would take at least a year to be heard. This separation from my grandson's primary caregiver is wrong! What immediate recourse does my daughter have?

This same thing happened to my best friend last week. I am not sure what is in the water in California but how do you take a child away from his mother. She is a wonderful mother who teaches special needs children. She is devestated and there needs to be a easier less costly way for parents to challege these decissions that clearly need to be re-addressed!

Attorney Answers 2


  1. At this point, it seems as if your daughter has few options available to her. Regardng the mediator's recommendations, remember that these are just recommendations; the court is still required to weigh all the evidence and then make the best decision the judge deems appropriate, which is what it saounds like this felt he or she was doing. I understand your frustration and it does inded sound as if the decision makes little sense, but of course having not been there I really can;t comment on that aspect of the situation. You should certainly speak with an appellate attorney (there are plenty who specialize in family law issues), but I think you will find that the judge's determination in a case such as this will be very difficult to overturn in the absence of some judicial error or wrongdoing, which seems uinliukely under the facts you have described. As for immdiate recourse, she could consider a motiopn for reconsideration, but this is only appropriate in situations involving facts or law that were previously unknown at the time of the hearing. You need to speak with your attorney about that.


  2. Your daughter can file an appeal to challenge the trial court's ruling. However, there are strict time restrictions with filing an appeal. Generally, a notice of appeal (http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/fillable/app002.pdf) must be filed within 60 days from the date of the final judgment being challenged. While it only costs $655 to file a notice of appeal, pursuing an appeal can be very time consuming and costly adventure. Family law appeals in the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Two (Hemet is in this District) typically take over a year from beginning to end. A good summary of the process can be found on the Court's web site: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/documents/app001.pdf

    Because the majority of appeals are unsuccessful, your daughter should take the time to consult with an experienced appellate attorney who handles family law appeals so she can weigh whether she wants to put her time and energy into pursuing an appeal, or whether she wants to focus on maintaining her relationship with her child under the current limitations and then pursuing a custody modification in the future.

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