Can Family court decisions be appealed?
10 November 2023 by Joel Tyson
Family Court proceedings are often fraught with emotion, and relate to sensitive issues such as domestic abuse, children, divorce and matrimonial finances. Sometimes one or more of the parties to proceedings are unhappy with the outcome of their case. In such circumstances family lawyers may be asked whether there are grounds to appeal the decision.
An appeal cannot be submitted just because a party does not agree with a Judge’s decision. They must show that their case meets the criteria for one of the specific grounds to appeal the decision.
In Family proceedings, there are only two “grounds” of appeal. An appeal will be allowed where a decision of the lower court was either (a) wrong; or (b) unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity.
In relation to the Judge making a “wrong” decision, there would need to be a strong reason to suggest the decision was incorrect, for example, the Judge failed to consider a crucial piece of evidence or law.
With regards to a decision being ‘unjust’, this could be for a number of reasons. For example, if the Judge failed to give a sufficient reason for their decision.
In most cases parties will need to obtain permission to appeal a decision. If possible this should generally be requested orally at the hearing when the decision is made. If the Judge dealing with the matter refuses permission directly, then permission to appeal can be sought from a more senior court by lodging an Appeal Notice.
In family cases, the hierarchy is as follows, starting with the lowest court;
- The Magistrates Court;
- The Family (County) Court;
- The High Court;
- The Court of Appeal; and
- The Supreme Court
Once an application to appeal has been submitted, the Court would then consider whether permission to appeal should be granted. The court can refuse permission to appeal on the basis of the application, but often a hearing will be held to determine whether the appeal has a real prospect of success, or whether there is any other compelling reason why permission should be granted for the appeal.
There is usually a very strict 21 day time limit to submit an appeal in relation to a Final Order. If this time has expired, you can ask for permission to submit the appeal out of time, but this is rarely accepted when there is no cogent reason for the delay.
Appeals in family cases are often complex and must be filed with the Court within a very narrow timeframe. Therefore, if you intend to appeal a Family Court decision it is important to obtain legal advice as soon as possible.
If you know anyone who would like advice in relation to appealing a Family Court decision, please contact our Family team by calling 01206 700113, or email [email protected].