The Appeal Court's Opinion: Part 3 of the Family Law Appeal Series

The briefs have all been filed and you have been waiting. Then, you receive notice from your attorney that they have received the opinion from the appellate court. FINALLY! Your attorney should share the opinion with you and discuss what the appellate court's opinion means and your options moving forward.


The first thing to know is appeal courts do not issues typical orders like the lower courts do. They issue an opinion, which is usually 1 of 3 of the following opinions (but can be 2 of 3 or even 3 of 3):


  1. Affirm: when the appellate court agrees with the trial court's ruling. This opinion goes against what you wanted if you filed the appeal. Example: you appealed the trial court's order awarding your ex custody of the children. The appellate court affirms the order, meaning they found no error to reverse or remand the trial court's order on custody.

  2. Reverse: when the appellate court overturns the trial court's ruling. This opinion is what you wanted if you filed the appeal. When a ruling is reversed it means the trial court's ruling is rejected by the appellate court. Example: you appealed the trial court's order that you had to pay your ex $50k for contempt. The appellate court reverses the order, meaning they found error was committed and you do not have to pay the $50k as a result of the error. The trial court's decision can also be reversed because the trial court misinterpreted the law. Example: The trial court ordered your parenting time to be supervised as it found that you might harm your child instead of finding that you will harm your child if your parenting time is not supervised.

  3. Remand: when the appellate court sends your case back to the trial court to correct an error or to reconsider its ruling. This is different than a reversal as the appellate court believes the error committed is correctable. Example: child support was ordered at $100 a week, but the trial court did not contribute the other parent's monthly bonuses into the child support calculation. The appellate court remands the issue back to the trial court, informing the trial court why they need to contribute the monthly bonuses and to recalculate the weekly child support obligation.

After you receive the opinion, your attorney should explain to you the appellate court's opinion, what they found and why, and what this means for your case moving forward. If the appeal court's decision was a reverse or remand it will more than likely mean you will be back in front of the trial court. An appeal rarely brings a final ending in family law cases. This is why it is very important before you decide to appeal that you discuss and consider whether or not appealing an order is really in the best interest for you and your family.


Next week we will end our series with some examples of family law opinions and how they have shaped family law cases. If you have a certain area of family law which you are curious about what Indiana Court of Appeals have said on it, let us know. We would like to cover a topic important to our readers.


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