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If a Florida divorce case is not settled between the parties, the judge will hold a final hearing (trial) on the issues of the case. These hearings are held without a jury and the judge will listen to testimony from the parties and any witnesses and make a ruling on the case. The judge will determine what the law is on each issue, and decide what the facts are regarding the issue. (which may entail deciding which witness testimony is to be believed) No matter where you live in Florida, Call 1-800-NOW DIVORCE to discuss attorney Gruskin's availability to handle your appeal.
If one party or both are not satisfied with the judge's ruling, there is a right to appeal to a higher court, known in Florida as the District Court of Appeal. (there are five district court's of appeal in Florida, each handling the cases from various judicial circuits and counties in Florida) Note that there are extremely strict deadlines for when you must file your papers regarding an appeal.
If you miss a deadline you may be pretty much out of the ballgame although there are some very rare exceptions.The appeals court will review the case to determine if the trial court made any errors in the determination or application of the law regarding each issue. (for example the appeal court may decide that the trial court should not have allowed certain testimony because it was hearsay)
It will also determine whether the trial court was correct in deciding what the facts of the case were. (to see if for example there was enough evidence to draw certain conclusions. It is rare that the appeal court will rule that the trial court didn't have enough evidence to draw a conclusion about the facts of the case. They view the trial judge as being in the best position to assess the credibility of witnesses for example.
The appellate court may conclude that the trial judge has made a mistake in applying the law to the facts of the case. (the appeals courts, and for that matter the trial court considers, as to what the law is, the statutes and procedural rules regarding divorce , as well as previous appeal court decisions on the issues)
Appeals are a lengthy, costly matter. Depending on the judge, the trial court proceedings may be a little less formal than appeal proceedings, although certainly the rules must be followed. There are very strict rules as to how appeals proceed and appeals are a lot of complicated work for the appellate lawyer. It is very difficult for someone to do their own appeal without a lawyer, very difficult. (note that the appeals court does not hear testimony from witnesses or accept new evidence)
There is no right to appeal a decision of the district court of appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. And those appeals are seldom heard by the Supreme Court unless for example there is a discrepancy between what one district court of appeal rules on a particular legal issue versus what another district court of appeal has ruled.
The appeals process on a Florida divorce will take many, many months if not longer. A transcript of the trial court proceedings must be prepared and reviewed by the appellate lawyer. (hopefully a court reporter was present at the relevant trial court proceedings so that a transcript can be prepared) .
The transcript and other documents will be presented for review to the appeals court. The appellate lawyer will prepare a "brief" to submit to the appeals court. It will state what errors the lawyer believes were made by the trial court and refer to the transcript and other materials to back up their position. An "answer brief" filed by the opposing party responds to the "brief".
Sometimes but not always, the appeals court will allow oral arguments. The lawyers will then be given an opportunity to present their positions verbally and respond to any questions asked by the appellate judges. (there is more than one judge on the appeals panel) There are several possible outcomes of an appeal on a Florida Divorce. One is that the appeals court can affirm a trial court's rulings so that they stand.
Another is that the trial court ruling is overturned. And the appeals court can send the case back for further proceedings in front of the trial court if the appeals court decision affects other decisions that the trial court had made. Sometimes the appeal court will need further detail in the trial court's written order to be able to properly review the proceedings. No matter where you live in Florida, Call 1-800-NOW DIVORCE to discuss attorney Gruskin's availability to handle your Florida divorce appeal.