Información Legal

Cuando Existe una Decisión

Cuando Existe una Decisión

Actualizada: 
21 de septiembre de 2021

Presentando una Apelación

Actualizada: 
21 de septiembre de 2021

Información básica y definiciones

¿Necesito un abogado para apelar mi caso?

Es posible solicitar una apelación sin la ayuda de un abogado, pero por lo general es un proceso complicado que contiene muchos tecnicismos legales. Es difícil hacerlo sin la ayuda de un/a abogado/a. Si finalmente decide hacerlo sola, puede que quiera hablar con un/a abogado/a mientras esté planeando su estrategia. Para obtener ayuda legal, usted puede ir a nuestra página Encontrando un Abogado aunque puede que tenga que llamar a muchos lugares para encontrar uno que lo haga apelaciones.

Hay una organización llamada DV LEAP que acepta casos de apelación civil que involucran violencia doméstica o maltrato de menores. Esto generalmente incluye órdenes de restricción, custodia, divorcio u otros casos civiles. Puede ver su solicitud en el sitio web de DV LEAP. Para otras organizaciones de apelaciones, vaya a la sección de Apelaciones de nuestra página Organizaciones Nacionales.​

¿Qué es una apelación?

Una apelación es cuando usted le pide a una corte de mayor rango que revise la decisión que tomó un/a juez/a en una corte de rango inferior. La corte de mayor rango (conocida como corte de apelaciones o corte suprema, por ejemplo) revisa transcripciones, evidencias, y documentos de las audiencias en la corte y decide si el/la juez/a cometió alguna falta con la ley. Usted no puede presentar nuevas evidencias cuando apela su caso a una corte superior. La corte superior o de mayor rango solo toma en cuenta lo que se dijo e hizo en la corte inferior.

Por lo general, usted tiene un tiempo limitado para presentar una apelación después de que una orden ha sido emitida o el juez haya tomado una decisión. El tiempo limite es diferente en cada estado o en el tipo de caso que quieras apelar. Puede que usted quiera hablar con un/a abogado/a lo más pronto posible para que así no pierda la oportunidad de apelar. Para más información, vea ¿Necesito un abogado para apelar mi caso?

¿Cuáles son las bases legales para una apelación?

Una base (o causal) es un término legal para describir la razón de la apelación. Usted no puede apelar una decisión de la corte simplemente porque no está satisfecho/a con el resultado; debe tener una base legal para presentar la apelación. Si el/la juez/a de su caso cometió un error o abusó de su criterio, entonces usted puede tener una base para presentar una apelación. Explicamos lo que esto significa en la sección llamada ¿Cuáles son las bases legales que típicamente considerarán los jueces para una apelación?

Bases legales para una apelación

How do I know if I can appeal my case?

You cannot appeal a court’s decision simply because you are unhappy with the outcome; the trial judge must have made a mistake that serves as a “ground” for your appeal. (A “ground” is a legal term that means a cause or basis.) Usually, you must also have pointed out that mistake to the trial judge at the time it was made by objecting in court during the trial. This is called “preserving your record.” We explain the types of mistakes that might be grounds to file an appeal in the section called What are the typical “grounds for appeal” that judges will consider?

What are the typical “grounds for appeal” that judges will consider?

Although it may vary by state or by the type of case that you are appealing, typically the grounds for an appeal are as follows:

The judge made an error of law
An “error of law” generally means that the judge in your case applied the wrong rule or “legal standard” to the facts of your case. This can occur if a trial court did not follow either the statute or case law in your state that is supposed to apply in your case’s circumstances. For example, in custody cases, a judge must determine what is in the child’s best interests. Most states have laws setting forth certain factors that must be considered, typically called “best interests factors.” If one of those factors is whether or not a parent committed domestic violence but the trial judge ignores domestic violence evidence in making the custody determination, you may have grounds to appeal based on an error of law.

An error of law is the strongest type of ground for appeal because the appellate court reviewing the case does not have to give any weight to what the trial court judge did. The appellate court will look at the law that was supposed to be applied and decide whether or not the trial court judge made a mistake.

The judge made an error regarding the facts
Generally, a judge’s ruling in the trial court must be based on the facts that are proven at trial. In most cases involving domestic violence and family law, there is no jury and the judge serves as the “fact finder.” As fact finder, the judge must consider the evidence and decide whether or not a certain fact has been proven. Because the trial judge has the opportunity to directly observe the evidence through witness testimony and documents, photos, etc., most appellate courts will very rarely second guess a judge’s factual findings. Therefore, a trial judge’s factual error is the most difficult to establish on appeal. Appellate courts will generally not overturn a factual finding unless it is clearly wrong (“erroneous”) and the record leaves absolutely no question that the judge was wrong.

The judge “abused his/her discretion”
A trial judge has a great deal of power to make decisions in a case, with the exception of decisions that are strictly about applying the law. Examples of this broad power, known as “judicial discretion,” include what evidence to admit during the trial, whether to grant a motion or request made by a party, and whether to grant a protection order or approve a proposed settlement agreement. Appellate courts respect the trial court judges’ discretionary power because they recognize that trial judges are in the best position to make these decisions. In general, an appeals court will go along with (“defer to”) a trial court judge’s decisions that are within the judge’s discretion.

Most types of errors will fall into this category of judicial discretion and they are very difficult to win on appeal, although not quite as difficult as in the case of factual errors. If a judge makes an error when using this discretion, it will not be a sufficient ground for appeal unless you can show that the judge “abused” this discretion. In “abuse of discretion” cases, the error is obvious because, for example, the evidence introduced at trial clearly does not support the judge’s decision or the judge’s decision was completely unreasonable. For example, let’s say in a custody case, when weighing the required factors to determine what is in the child’s best interests, the judge applies a lot of weight to the fact that the other party’s home has one more bedroom than yours, but applies very little weight to the fact that the other party has committed domestic violence and has a substance abuse problem.

How do I start the appeals process?

Usually, you only have a short amount of time to file an appeal after the judge issues the order or decision that you want to appeal. To start the appeals process, you must file a Notice of Appeal within the time limit required by your state. The time limit will depend on what state you live in and what type of case you want to appeal and may be extended if you file a post-trial motion, such as a Motion for Reconsideration. In many states, but not all states, a Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days from the date of the final trial order. After you file the Notice of Appeal, there are other documents and/or further steps that will be required, sometimes called “perfecting the appeal,” and often these further steps will have deadlines. Examples of those additional steps are explained in The typical steps in the appeals process. If at all possible, you should consult with an attorney in your state about what these steps and deadlines are. If you are not able to talk to an attorney, many states have excellent appellate guides for unrepresented litigants on their judiciary websites that provide this information.

¿Cuántas bases legales puedo incluir en mi apelación?

​Puede basar la apelación en una o varias bases legales. Si usted está escribiendo su propia apelación, deberá incluir tantas bases o causales como pueda, con la esperanza de que la corte de apelaciones acepte al menos una de las que usted incluya. Si no incluye una base legal de apelación en su documentación, entonces no podrá argumentar esa causal más adelante como una razón para revertir la decisión de el/la juez/a de la corte de primera instancia.

Las apelaciones pueden ser complicadas y llevar mucho tiempo. Si tiene preguntas sobre si tiene o no bases legales para apelar su caso, debe hablar con un/a abogado/a. Para más información, vea ¿Necesito un abogado para apelar mi caso?

What is a motion to stay? How does it affect the order I am appealing?

When you file to appeal a judge’s order, the act of filing the appeal does not stop the court order that you are appealing from going into effect. The only way that the order would not go into effect immediately is to file a post-trial motion called a Motion to Stay and for the judge to grant a “stay,” which prevents the original order from taking effect while the appeal is going on.

States may each have their own standards for when a stay will be granted but, generally, it is difficult to obtain a stay. For example, in Washington, D.C., a Motion to Stay must show: 1. that your appeal is likely to succeed; 2. that you will suffer irreparable harm if the stay is not granted and the order is allowed to go into effect; 3. that the other party will not suffer undue harm or prejudice if the stay is granted; and 4. that the public interest weighs in favor of granting the stay.1

In many states, you must file this Motion to Stay first with the trial court and, if it is denied, then you would re-file it in the appellate court. It is important to speak with an attorney from your state to find out the specific process, timeline, and criteria for filing a Motion to Stay the trial court’s order.

1Barry v. Washington Post Co., 529 A.2d 319 (D.C.App. 1987)

The typical steps in the appeals process

Step 1: File the Notice of Appeal.

The Notice of Appeal is usually a simple form that can often be found on the state’s judiciary website. It typically requires basic information, such as the name of the parties to the appeal, the court and case number of the order being appealed, and in some cases, a summary of the grounds for appeal. (Here is an example from Wisconsin.) Here are some key points to remember related to the Notice of Appeal:

  • When: Make sure to file within your state’s deadline. If you aren’t sure of the deadline, call your local legal services or consult with a private attorney to ask.
  • Where: Often, the Notice of Appeal must be filed in both the trial court that issued the decision you are appealing and in the appeals court. Sometimes the form itself will state where it must be filed.
  • Who: Before you file the Notice of Appeal, you must be sure to give (“serve”) your opposing party or his/her lawyer a copy of the Notice of Appeal. Many states will require that you “certify” that you have served the opposing party, for example, by signing a statement at the bottom of the Notice of Appeal.

Step 2: Pay the filing fee.

Typically, there is a fee for filing an appeal that must be paid to the clerk’s office in the appeals court. These fees can range from $100-$250. If you are unable to afford the filing fee, you may be eligible for a waiver based on your income. Check with the appeals court clerk’s office or the court’s website to see whether you can apply for a fee waiver.

Step 3: Determine if/when additional information must be provided to the appeals court as part of opening your case.

In some states, appellants must file a separate document with administrative information at the same time, or shortly after, filing a Notice of Appeal. For example, in Maryland you must file a “Civil Appeal Information Report” within 10 days of filing your Notice of Appeal.

Step 4: Order the trial transcripts.

Typically, the appeals court will need to review the trial transcripts, which are the written record of the trial. It is the appellant’s responsibility to order and pay for the transcripts. Usually transcripts are ordered through the trial court reporter. Check with the trial court clerk’s office to determine the process for your state. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Transcripts are expensive. They are typically charged based on the number of pages, and therefore the cost is determined by the length of the trial. Check to see if your state offer’s transcript fee waivers based on income eligibility. If so, you will need to complete the required forms to request the waiver, which often includes a financial statement that proves your income.
  • Check with the trial court and/or the appellate court clerk about any deadlines related to the transcripts. Often there is a deadline for when the transcripts must be requested (and paid for), usually based on the date the Notice of Appeal is filed. For example, you may have to request the transcripts within 14 days of filing the Notice of Appeal. If your state has a deadline for when the transcripts must be prepared and they will not be ready in time, you will need to file a motion in the appeals court asking for an extension of the deadline and stating why you will not have the transcripts on time – for example, if the court reporter can’t complete the transcripts by the deadline.
  • Check with the appellate court as to whether you need to file any paperwork confirming that you have ordered the transcripts.
  • Check with the appellate court to ask if you must provide a copy of the transcript to the appellee. Typically, the trial court reporter (“court stenographer”) or whoever is preparing the transcripts will send the original directly to the trial court to be included in the record. However, often the appellant will be responsible for sending a copy of the transcript to the appellee.

Step 5: Confirm that the record has been transferred to the appellate court.

The trial court clerk will typically put together the “record,” usually after the transcripts are completed, and send it to the appeals court. The record includes all of the documents connected to your case, including the transcripts. While it is usually the lower court’s responsibility to ensure that the record is transferred, it is a good idea for you to contact the appellate court clerk’s office to check on the status of the transfer. In many states, the transfer of the record from the lower court to the appellate court is what triggers the start of the “briefing schedule,” explained below in Step 7.

Step 6: Determine what must be filed with your brief.

In most states, the appellant’s brief must include select portions of the record that support your position to make it easier for the appeals court to determine whether or not it agrees with your arguments. It could be included as attachments (“exhibits”) to the brief itself or you may have to put it in a separate document that gets filed along with the brief. In Maryland, for example, the brief must be accompanied by a “record extract,” which includes photocopies of transcript excerpts and exhibits that support your arguments. In Massachusetts, this is called a “record appendix,” and the brief must also include an attachment (“addendum”) with copies of the order being appealed and other relevant documents. Most appellate court websites have guides that will help you identify the particular requirements in your state. For example, the website for Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals includes a guide for self-represented litigants in Maryland.

Step 7: Determine when your brief must be filed.

You should receive a written notice giving you the deadlines for your briefs and the other party’s briefs, often called a briefing schedule. If you did not, contact the appellate court clerk to ask for one. Different states have different timelines for when appellate briefs are due, as well as different events that would start (trigger) the timing. In many states, the transfer of the record to the appellate court starts the timing. Typically, once the timing is triggered, the appellate court will send the parties a briefing schedule laying out the deadlines for each brief.

Many states, although not all, use the following schedule:

  1. The appellant has 30 days from the triggering event to file the “opening brief.”
  2. The appellee has 30 days from the time the opening brief is filed to file his/her brief.
  3. The appellant has 15 days from the date the appellee’s brief is filed to file a reply brief.

The appellate court’s rules, which are usually available on the court’s website, should lay out the timing requirements of the briefing schedule for your state. Many appellate courts have helpful guides that will direct self-represented litigants to the correct rules.

Step 8: Check the length and formatting requirements for the brief.

Most appellate courts have strict rules about how long each type of brief can be and will have either a page limit or word limit. You should also check if there are any specific formatting requirements, such as font type and size. If you are unable to find these rules on the appellate court’s website, call the clerk.

Step 9: Write your brief.

As explained in Step 7 and Step 8, every state has its own specific requirements for the appellate brief. It is extremely important to consult the appellate court’s website for the relevant rules, sample briefs, and any other guidance to make sure that your brief follows all of the requirements and won’t be rejected. In addition to the specific requirements set forth in the appellate court’s rules, here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Generally, an appellant’s first brief (“opening brief”) will require:
    • a description or list of the errors you believe the trial court made;
    • a statement of the facts of the case that would be necessary for the appellate court judges to understand your arguments. The facts must have been presented during trial or at some point during the litigation; they cannot reference new information. If possible, there should be a reference to the specific parts of the record that establish the facts, which usually would be written in parenthesis after each fact. For example, “The Appellee admitted to placing a GPS on the Appellant’s car (transcript p. 74, lines 23-24);”
    • your arguments explaining why and how the trial court made each error your appeal is based on, supported by citations to relevant case law;
    • a concluding request that the appellate court overturn (“vacate”) the trial court’s order.
  • An appellee’s brief generally will require:
    • a counter-statement of facts that would be necessary for the court to understand the appellee’s arguments as to why the trial court’s decision was correct. The facts must be supported by references to the record as shown above;
    • the appellee’s arguments explaining how each of the appellant’s arguments is incorrect and why the trial court’s decision is correct, supported by citations to the relevant case law;
    • a concluding request that the appellate court agree with (“affirm”) the trial court’s order.
  • An appellant’s reply brief, if the appellant chooses to file one, will require:
    • any additional facts necessary to address the appellee’s arguments;
    • your arguments responding to the appellee’s arguments but without repeating arguments from your opening brief, if possible.

Some appellate courts’ websites provide sample appellate briefs, which can be very helpful if you are attempting to write a brief on your own. If you are attempting to find case law on your own, there is a public site called Google Scholar, which allows someone to do case law by searching for phrases that might come up in other cases. There may be state-specific resources as well, such as The People’s Law Library of Maryland. (WomensLaw is not affiliated with either of these websites and cannot vouch for the information you may find on them.)

Más información y otras opciones

¿Qué otras opciones existen?

En vez de apelar, usted tal vez pueda pedir una modificación a la orden de la corte. Para solicitar una modificación de una orden, probablemente tendrá que probar que hay un cambio substancial de circunstancias has sucedió desde que se emitió la orden. Usted tendrá que volver a la corte que emitió la orden y llenar los formularios correspondientes para modificar su orden. Probablemente, se realizará otra audiencia. Para más información acerca de modificaciones de diferentes tipos de órdenes, por favor visite Conozca la Ley en la parte superior de esta página y selecciona el tipo de información que necesita. Además, puede ser que quiera hablar con un/a abogado/a para averiguar si solicitando una modificación es apropiado bajo las circunstancias de su caso. Si está tratando de cambiar una orden de custodia, puede ver información general sobre cómo hacerlo en Cómo cambiar una orden de custodia permanente o puede encontrar información estatal específica seleccionando su estado en el menú desplegable en el mismo enlace.

¿Qué es una Moción de Reconsideración?

After trial, there are several types of motions that can be filed to address possible trial errors. You may want to consult with an attorney to see if any of these options may work better in your situation than filing an appeal. Depending on the type of motion, there are often short filing deadlines for these motions. The most common type of post-trial motion is a Motion for Reconsideration in which you are asking the judge to reconsider his/her ruling and change one specific part of the court order or the court’s overall ruling. Dependiendo de las leyes de su estado, una Moción de Reconsideración puede ser una opción en situaciones en las que:

  • usted no está satisfecho/a con la orden de el/la juez/a y cree que el/la juez/a no consideró o examinó apropiadamente cierta evidencia o las leyes aplicables; o
  • hay nueva evidencia disponible que usted no pudo presentar antes de que el/la juez/a tomara la decisión.

One way that a Motion for Reconsideration may have a negative effect, however, is that if the judge rules against you, s/he may use it as an opportunity to make the ruling harder to appeal by strengthening his/her factual findings or legal analysis against your position. For more information, see our Motions for Reconsideration section.

Mociones de Reconsideración

¿Qué es una Moción de Reconsideración?

Una moción de reconsideración es una petición legal que le permite pedirle a el/la juez/a que reconsidere su decisión. Dependiendo de las leyes de su estado, una moción de reconsideración puede ser una opción en situaciones en las que:

  • usted no está satisfecho/a con la orden de el/la juez/a y cree que el/la juez/a no consideró o examinó apropiadamente cierta evidencia o las leyes aplicables; o
  • hay nueva evidencia disponible que usted no pudo presentar antes de que el/la juez/a tomara la decisión.

¿Cuándo presento una Moción de Reconsideración?

La fecha límite para presentar será cierto periodo de tiempo después que el/la juez/a haya dado la orden que usted quiere que sea reconsiderada o después que usted haya recibido la notificación de la orden, que usualmente es entre 14 y 30 días. Es posible que quiera hablar con un/a abogado/a en su estado sobre el límite de tiempo para presentar esta moción.

¿Qué considerará un juez en una Moción de Reconsideración?

Las leyes de su estado determinan los factores exactos que un/a juez/a considerará al decidir si darle o no su Moción de Reconsideración . Generalmente, un/a juez/a considerará factores tales como:

  • si hay nueva evidencia que sea significativa para el asunto legal y no estaba disponible cuando el caso terminó a pesar de usted haber hecho su mejor esfuerzo para conseguir esa evidencia;
  • si la decisión final se hizo después de una interpretación incorrecta de la ley o la ley ha cambiado desde que el/la juez/a hizo su decisión final; y
  • si denegar la Moción de Reconsideración resultaría en una injusticia obvia.

Estos son los ejemplos generales de lo que un/a juez/a puede considerar y es posible que no sean los factores específicos de su estado. Es posible que quiera contactar a un/a abogado/a para averiguar qué leyes estatales le aplican a su situación.

Cobrando una Sentencia (veredicto)

Si gano mi caso y me dan una compensación económica, ¿cuándo me pagará el demandado?

Dependiendo de la situación económica de el/la demandado/a, puede ser difícil cobrar una sentencia (veredicto). Algunas personas no trabajan ni tienen bienes y no pueden pagar. Otros/as demandados/as pueden tener el dinero pero se niegan a pagarlo por rencor u otras razones. Una sentencia (veredicto) es simplemente un papel que sirve como un reconocimiento judicial de que una persona le debe a usted cierta cantidad de dinero. Desafortunadamente, el que el/la juez/a le haya dado una compensación económica no significa que el/la demandado/a pagará la cantidad adeudada de inmediato. Aunque es posible que la pague, la mayoría de las veces será necesario tomar medidas para hacer cumplir ese veredicto y obligar a el/la demandado/a a pagar.

Si el/la demandado/a tiene dinero u otros bienes, es posible que quiera hablar con un/a abogado/a en su estado o territorio para ver cuál es el proceso en su jurisdicción. Aquí enumeramos algunos pasos que puede tomar para tratar de cobrar (hacer cumplir) su sentencia (veredicto):

  • En algunos de los estados, uno de los primeros pasos puede ser presentarle la sentencia (veredicto) a el/la secretario/a de su jurisdicción. Una sentencia que esté registrada aparecerá en el récord de el/la demandado/a si él/ella trata de comprar o vender una casa, sacar un préstamo, comprar un carro, etc. Para algunas personas, tener una sentencia en su récord les motivará a pagarla. Sin embargo, no todos los estados permiten que se presente el veredicto con el/la secretario/a.
  • Si usted no sabe dónde trabaja el/la demandado/a o los bienes que pueda tener, algunos estados le permiten notificarle a el/la demandado/a una serie de preguntas sobre sus finanzas. Es posible que esto se conozca como una citación judicial para dar información, un interrogatorio escrito, o como alguna otra cosa. Una vez notificada, el/la demandado/a debe completar las preguntas y proveer información sobre su estatus financiero. Si él/ella no completa las preguntas, se le puede pedir a la corte que le penalice por no haber respondido.
  • Es posible que pueda hacer otras cosas para hacer cumplir la sentencia (veredicto). Si usted sabe dónde trabaja el/la demandado/a o dónde tiene una cuenta de banco, sería posible embargar el salario de el/la demandado/a o quitarle (incautar) sus bienes. Este proceso puede ser complicado dependiendo de las reglas de su estado. En algunos estados, es posible que pueda contactar a el/la sheriff o alguacil en su área para ver si le puede ayudar con este proceso. En otros estados, un/a juez/a tiene que ordenar específicamente que se embargue el salario o que se incauten los bienes antes de poder usar estos métodos para hacer cumplir el veredicto.

No obstante, a veces ningunas de estas opciones son posibles por la mala situación financiera de el/la demandado/a. Si usted sabe que la persona que usted piensa demandar no va a poder pagar un veredicto a su favor, debe pensar si el costo y el estrés de hacer una demanda valdrá la pena cuando probablemente usted no pueda cobrar la sentencia.

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