Sometimes you just can't accept the judge's verdict in your family law case as final without a fight—there may be too much at stake, especially if it involves your children or long-term financial consequences. Appealing it is the only thing that makes sense.
So is finding an attorney who handles appellate work. Most attorneys who handle litigation—actual courtroom work—don't handle appeals because they are remarkably different in many different ways.
While you might really be comfortable with your litigation attorney, here are some important reasons you should consider hiring an appellate lawyer if the case has to go that far.
1. It's far too easy to make a mistake with deadlines.
California jurisdictional deadlines can vary and if you miss a cutoff date, there are no second chances or extensions. By comparison, trial courts are far more forgiving and provide a lot of opportunities to recover when a paper is filed with the wrong court or a deadline is missed. An attorney unfamiliar with the severity of the way that appeals are handled could make a serious mistake.
2. An appeal asks very different questions than those asked in the trial.
It's important to understand that an appeal is not a second trial—the court won't look at new evidence or rehear the case, no matter how compelling your reasons. It will only ask two questions. First, did the trial court make an error in applying the law according to the facts in the record? Second, was the error significant enough that it should entitle the person bringing the appeal some form of relief? Anything else is outside the appeals court's ability to address.
3. Appeals are mostly done on paper.
Very little time is actually spent arguing an appeal or presenting one to the court. Most of the heavy work—and the part that wins or loses your case—is done entirely in writing. You may have an excellent trial attorney who does very well with judges and witnesses, but his or her skill with written arguments is what counts on appeal.
These aren't the only reasons, naturally, that an appellate attorney is better for an appeal than a trial attorney. They just help highlight a few of the main ones that point out that appeals take a different set of skills and a different way of thinking than the trial court. For more information on our approach to appeals, please visit our page.