What should I consider when deciding whether or not to file an appeal?
When considering whether filing an appeal is the right option for you, you will want to consider the following things:
- Time: An appeal can take up to a year or more from start to finish.
- Expense: Appeals are very difficult to do without a lawyer and hiring an appellate attorney can be extremely expensive. (If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be eligible for pro bono (free) appellate representation from DV LEAP). Aside from the cost of an attorney, there will be a filing fee that is often between $100-$250. Also, you will probably need to pay for the written transcripts from the final trial in the lower court, which can be quite costly. Some states will waive the filing fees and transcript fees if you are low income, but many states do not offer this.
- Outcome: Even if you “win” on appeal, which is very difficult, the most likely outcome will be another trial, called a “remand.” This is where the appellate court instructs the trial court judge to fix the mistakes that the appellate court decided the trial court judge made. You may have to re-litigate one part or all of the trial again in the lower court and it does not necessarily mean that you will win the case – the trial court judge could still rule in favor of the other party. There is also a good chance you will be back in front of the same trial judge whose order you appealed.
- Emotional toll and safety concerns: If the other party is your abusive partner, it’s important to know that the appeals process is very long, which will drag out the conflict between you and the abuser and will create an extended time of uncertainty in your life. In addition, filing an appeal may anger the abuser, which could lead to additional abuse.
The good news, however, is that an appeal is decided only based on the written evidence and exhibits filed in court. Therefore, you will not have to testify or go through another trial at the appellate court. In addition, there is the potential that the court’s ruling on your appeal will change or strengthen the law to help others in similar situations.