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How To Appeal A Family Court Decision

Family Court rulings in England and Wales can significantly impact the lives of those involved, as they often deal with sensitive issues such as child arrangements, financial settlements, and domestic abuse matters. While the Family Court is committed to delivering fair and just decisions, there may be instances where one or both parties involved in a case believe grounds exist to appeal the Judge’s ruling. If you wish to launch an appeal, it is vital you have an experienced Family Law Solicitor by your side and understand the appeal process.

Before we look at the process of appealing a Family Court decision, it is useful to briefly set out how the Court system in England and Wales works.

Which Court will hear my Family Court Appeal?

England and Wales (along with Scotland and Northern Ireland, and many other countries) operate a common law system. This means that the law is made by judges who study reports of older cases which have been decided and then derive principles from them that will be applied by other judges in future.

The right of appeal is an integral part of the common law legal system. Depending on the circumstances of the original case and the composition of the Family Court that made the decision (for example Magistrates or District Judges), the appeal will be heard by:

  • A Circuit Judge sitting in the Family Court 

  • A High Court Judge sitting in the Family Court

  • The High Court

  • The Court of Appeal

Your Family Law Solicitor will advise you on which Court will hear your appeal.


What are the steps for appealing a Family Law Decision?

Understand the original decision

Before you decide to appeal a Family Court ruling, it is crucial that you comprehend the original judgment, including the reasons behind it. Obtain a copy of the Court's written decision, which will outline the judge's findings and legal reasoning. Take the time to consult with your Solicitor to ensure you have a clear understanding of the judgment's implications.

Consider grounds for the appeal

You cannot simply appeal a judicial decision because you do not happen to like it. You will need to base your appeal on one of the following grounds:

a. Error in law - You believe the judge made a legal mistake or misapplied the law in your case.

b. Procedural irregularities made the decision unjust – the Court did not follow proper procedures during the hearing, such as allowing inadmissible evidence or denying you the opportunity to present your case adequately.

In almost all cases, you will need to apply to the Court for permission to appeal the original decision. Such permission is not easy to achieve as the Court must be satisfied that your appeal has a reasonable prospect of success. This approach ensures that frivolous and vexatious claims (of which there are many in the realms of family law) are weeded out.

Meet the time limit

In England and Wales, there is a strict time limit for filing an appeal. Generally, you must apply for permission to appeal within 21 days from the date of the Family Court's decision.

Can I submit new evidence at the appeal hearing?

If you have been granted permission to appeal, the Judge will review the original decision to see if it was wrong or unjust. It is highly unlikely that you will be permitted to present new evidence that was not heard in the lower court. 

It is also important to be aware that the Judge is likely to confine their decision to the matter set out in the Appeal Notice. It is therefore essential to work with your Family Law Solicitor to ensure every element of the original decision you wish to appeal (which have valid grounds) are listed in the Notice.


Final Thoughts

Appealing a Family Court decision in England and Wales is a rigorous process that demands careful consideration, legal expertise, and adherence to strict timelines. It is essential to consult with an experienced Family Law Solicitor who can assess your case's strengths and weaknesses and guide you through the process. 

Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have an experienced family law team who can assist you with your divorce or civil partnership dissolution. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.


23 May 2024
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