Lexington Family Law Appeals Lawyers Available to Help You
Do you need to file an appeal from a final order of the South Carolina Family Court? Attorney James R. Snell, Jr., is experienced in appellate practice before both the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the South Carolina Supreme Court. He along with the other appellate lawyers in our office can help you appeal your Family Court case from any county. We are also available to assist clients who must respond to an appeal filed by the other side.
We can help you file an appeal if you object to the decision involving:
- Custody of Children
- Payment of Alimony
- Visitation schedule
- Dividing Marital Assets or Debts
- Attorney's Fees
- Any other important Family Court decision
An appeal is the legal process to ask a higher court to reverse or modify a judge's decision. Family Court appeals are initially heard by the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Filing an appeal can result in the original decision being overturned or modified.
In order to retain us for your appeal your case will need to have been concluded or ended by the court decision. If your case has only recently started, and you are dissatisfied with the decision made at a temporary or pendente lite hearing, you still have an opportunity to seek a different outcome at a final hearing. An appeal is only heard after the Family Court has concluded its role in reaching a final decision regarding the case.
An appeal is conducted very differently than a normal Family Court trial or hearing. Appeals are normally decided by a three judge panel from the South Carolina Court of Appeals. They make a decision after considering written submissions submitted by each side (called briefs) and after reviewing materials available by the original Family Court judge (called a record on appeal). When a case is on appeal it is considered "frozen in time", and the court does not consider new information or evidence that wasn't originally presented to the Family Court.
Many appeals are decided without a live hearing. Instead the judges reach a decision after considering the written submissions. If however the court grants a hearing it is in the form of oral argument. Arguments are scheduled well in advance at the Court's office in Columbia, and are presided over by the three judge panel assigned to your case. The court does not take testimony, instead lawyers are given a few minutes to explain to the Court why or why not the appeal should be granted (and during this time the judges may interrupt them with questions). You will be notified of any oral argument in your case, but you will not be required to attend.
Although there is no exact time limit on how long an appeal will take, generally most appeals will be concluded in 12-18 months, with faster timeframes provided to cases involving termination of parental rights or the Department of Social Services.
The Appellate Process
Although every Family Court case is different, the Court has specific rules outlining the procedure that any appeal will follow. Here is a general description of the process:
- We will begin the process by acquiring copies of the relevant documents from your case that we will need for the appeal. These documents can normally be provided by our client, from your original attorney, or if necessary we can obtain them directly from the courthouse.
- We will contact your original attorney to confirm for them that we have been retained to take care of the appeal.
- The appeal begins by the filing of a document titled "Notice of Intent to Appeal" with the South Carolina Court of Appeals. A copy is also provided to the Family Court, and to the other lawyers and guardian ad litem in your case. This document must be filed within thirty days of the final decision in your case. This is a very important time-deadline to meet, and if missed can result in an inability to have your case heard on appeal no matter how meritorious it may be. Fortunately the required initial filing can be prepared and submitted by us very quickly (typically within one or two business days).
- At the same time the "Notice of Intent to Appeal" is filed, we will also request a copy of the court reporter's transcript, and provide a copy of this request to the Court of Appeals.
- The court reporter will normally provide a copy of the transcript in 30-90 days. There are procedures for how long a court reporter has to do transcripts, and in what order the transcripts are prepared. There is a central office in Columbia which manages this to make sure that transcripts are prepared and completed in a fair manner (so if you believe that the court reporter will favor the other side of your case they still aren't allowed to hold up your appeal).
- When we receive the transcript we will schedule a time for you to speak with the lawyer in charge of your appeal. The purpose of the meeting is to confirm the precise issues or decisions that you wish to see included in your appeal.
- We will then prepare a document called the Initial Brief of the Appellant. That document is the most important in the appellate process, and is what the judges assigned to your appeal will read in determining how it will be decided. This brief is where we include a description of your case, specifically indicate the issues we are appealing, and then offer legal reasons why the appeal should be granted. Generally this will be done 30-60 days after receipt of the transcript.
- The other side of your case then has an opportunity to prepare their response – called the Initial Brief of the Respondent. Generally this will be done 30-60 days after the Initial Brief of the Appellant.
- In some cases we may then prepare a response, called a reply. Generally this will be done in 10-30 days after the Initial Brief of the Appellant. This is a chance to respond to any issues or comments raised by the other side.
- Next both sides will put the briefs into final form. This will involve having them bound with specially colored covers depending on the document. The Record on Appeal shall have a white cover, the Brief of the Appellant shall be blue, the Brief of the Respondent shall be red, and any reply brief is gray.
- The next step is that the appellant court will assign the case to a panel of judges to review and decide. Typically we will be notified when the case is to be decided, and if the court is granting a hearing (called oral argument). Many cases take 6-12 months to be decided after the submission of all of the briefs.
- The Court of Appeals decision will be in the form of a written opinion. You will be provided with a copy.
Serving All Counties in South Carolina
All appellate cases from Family Courts are initially assigned to the South Carolina Court of Appeals in Columbia. This means that this court will hear cases from all parts of the state including Greenville, Charleston, Beaufort, Greenwood, and everywhere in-between. Once the appellate process has started the original Family Court loses authority, and the case is then "owned" by the appellate court. As a result our offices, centrally located in Lexington and Columbia, are conveniently located for representing clients in the appellate court.
We understand that anyone seeking to appeal a Family Court decision will likely have numerous questions regarding the process. Because of that the first step is to contact our office for an initial consultation with an appellant attorney.
Scheduling an Appeal Consultation
Appointments are available either by telephone or in-person. Because many of our appellate clients live outside of the Columbia area (or even out of state), many choose to schedule their consultation by telephone. Prior to your appointment time you will be given an opportunity to e-mail\fax the written order you wish to appeal (if available), along with any other relevant documentation. The attorney will review them before your appointment to make sure that he is best prepared to discuss your case with you.
Please note, we do charge a consultation fee for all Family Court appeal matters. Initial consultations are substantive, and we will give you an honest assessment as to whether or not an appeal would be possibly beneficial or in your best interest. The fee is collected at the time the appointment is scheduled.