Family Law Appeals
In reviewing the order appealed from, the Appellate Division looks at whether the decision is supported by the facts and the law. Family Court Orders receive a certain level of deference by the appellate courts as to fact because of the court’s perceived expertise in family law matters. The trial judge sees all of the witnesses testify and is usually best able to determine the witness’s demeanor, tone, emotions, attitude and credibility. The Appellate Division sees none of that. Its decisions are based on papers and sometimes oral argument of the attorneys involved.
This does not mean that the appellate division cannot or will not disturb the lower court’s decisions and determination on the facts, just that its doing so is less common than leaving that part of the Family Court decision alone. This deference to Family Court would be on issues such as finding a witness and their testimony credible or not credible, or perhaps whether the witness was sincere in their testimony.
Where issues involved in the appeal are questions of law, the Appellate Division always reviews it, without deference to any lower court. Some examples of questions of law would be whether the right law was applied to the facts, whether the law applied to the facts was applied properly or whether the law was misinterpreted in applying it to the facts.
When the evidence presented at trial is found to be “adequate, substantial and credible” in support of the decision, the Appellate Division will not change the trial court’s decision. This means that the law and principles of law must be correctly applied to the evidence presented and there is enough believable evidence to support the decision made by the trial court. Failure of these standards will result in the Appellate Division overturning the decision, modifying it or sending it back to the lower court with instructions to make a new decision based on the higher court’s decision on the appeal.
I recommend you read our related article titled “The Procedure for Filing an Appeal of a New Jersey Family Court Order” which is located on this website. Said article discusses the time periods for taking an appeal and some of the procedures for the same.
Peter Van Aulen has been practicing divorce and family law for over 22 years. His practice focuses on family and divorce law. He is a former adjunct professor. Mr. Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney. Peter Van Aulen has successfully handled a number of appeals. Some of his Appellate Court decisions have been published. He enjoys researching, writing and arguing appeals. His main office is located in Saddle Brook New Jersey. If you need to discuss the appeal of your Family Court Order, contact the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free initial consultation at 201-845-7400.