An appeal is when you ask a higher court to review a decision by a judge in a lower court. The higher court (which may be called a court of appeals, appellate court, or supreme court, for example) looks at the "record", which includes the transcript, physical evidence/ documents from the trial court and decides if the judge made any mistakes of law. You cannot introduce new evidence when you appeal your case to a higher court. The higher court only looks at what was said and done in the trial court.
Usually, you only have a short time to file an appeal after the judge issues the order or decision you want to appeal. The time limit may be different depending on what state you live in and/or what type of case you want to appeal. You may want to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible about the time limit in your state so that you do not lose your chance to appeal.
It is possible to file an appeal on your own, but it is generally a complicated procedure with technical rules of law. It is hard to do without a lawyer. If you do decide to file an appeal on your own, you may want to talk to a lawyer for advice as you plan your strategy. For legal help, you can go to our Finding a Lawyer page (although you may have to call many places to find one that does appeals) or check out the Appeals section of our National Organizations page. If you are a domestic violence victim, and your case is related to domestic violence, you may want to check with your State Coalition Against Domestic Violence to ask if they help with appeals or if they can refer you. You'll find contact information for your state's coalition on our Advocates and Shelters page after you enter your state in the drop-down menu.
The American Bar Association has more information about the appeals process. There are also websites that have information about filing appeals in specific cases - for example, About.com has an article about filing an appeal in a divorce. Please note that WomensLaw.org has no relationship with these websites and cannot vouch for the information contained on them. We provide these links for your information only.
Instead of appealing, in some cases, you may be able to request a modification of the court order. To request a modification of a court order, you will likely need to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that has happened since the order was issued. You will need to go back to the court where your order was issued and file modification forms. There will probably be a new hearing on the issue. You may also want to consult with an attorney to see if filing for a modification is appropriate under the circumstances of your case.