Generally speaking, when both parties in a family court decision walk away feeling like they've given up a lot, the judgment has probably been as fair as possible. However, if you feel like you have clearly come out on the "losing" end of the case, it may be time to consider an appeal.
First, however, consider other potential options. Talk to your attorney to find out if it's possible to accomplish your goals another way:
-- A motion to reconsider the order.
A motion to reconsider asks the same court to look back over its ruling due to new facts or with an eye to a law that wasn't considered.
In order to qualify for a motion to reconsider, you must file the request quickly. In California, you only have 10 days from the written notice of the court's judgment.
You also have to be able to clearly state what new facts or information you would like the judge to consider or what law you would like the judge to apply.
If you are alleging new facts or information, be prepared to explain to the court why you didn't have this information before, how you learned it and why they matter enough for the court to reconsider its opinion.
-- A motion to vacate the order.
Another option is to ask the judge to vacate, or set aside the original order. Your time limit for acting depends on the reason you're asking the judge to vacate the order.
There are only a few reasons that a judge is likely to vacate an order, including:
-- The order was made against you because of your own reasonable "mistake inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." For example, you were given the wrong information about the laws in your case.
-- You never received notice of the summons or petition and there was a default judgment entered against you.
-- You were the victim of actual fraud, perjury, duress or mental incapacity.
-- Your spouse failed to comply with financial disclosure requirements.
-- You are asking for equitable relief, which is essentially appealing to the fairness of court and its ability to make sure that both parties are treated equally.
Motions can sometimes circumvent the need for an appeal, but they may or may not be right for your case. Talk to your attorney about the possibility.