Family court decisions can be tough to accept, especially when the ruling doesn’t align with your expectations. After all, the outcome of a family law case could mean less time with your kids or less money in the bank.
If you’ve gone through a family law dispute in Texas and are unhappy with the judge’s ruling, it’s natural to wonder if there’s a way to challenge the final decision. So, who can overrule a family court judge? In most cases, no one can. However, higher courts can do so in certain circumstances.
While Texas does allow appeals for family law decisions, that doesn’t guarantee that a higher court will overrule the court rulings of a family court judge. Appealing a family law ruling is complicated, so it’s essential to understand the Texas court system before you move forward.
How Does an Appeal Work in Texas?
An appeal is a request to have a higher court review a lower court’s decision. When appealing Texas family law cases, the higher court is the Texas Appeals Court, and the lower court is the District Court that handled the original trial.
The purpose of the Appeals Court is to determine if the lower court made an error in law that affected your ruling. It’s a form of checks and balances to hold the lower courts accountable for their decisions.
If an appeal is successful, the Texas Appeals Court can choose to overrule the family court judge’s decision and issue a new ruling. This outcome could mean better terms for you in typical situations such as:
- A more favorable divorce settlement.
- A different outcome in a child custody or visitation rights dispute.
- An altered ruling in a child support payment case.
Grounds for a Family Court Appeal
It’s important to understand that the Texas Appeals Court cannot overrule a judge’s decision simply because you disagree with it. The Appeals Court exists to ensure that the lower court correctly applies the law, and it will not substitute its own opinion or judgment for the opinion of the family court judge.
To file an appeal, you’ll need to show that either the judge made a legal or procedural error, which may involve an abuse of discretion or misinterpreting the relevant law.
An Example Worthy of Appealing
Here’s an example of a potentially valid legal ground for an appeal.
You were the defendant in a divorce case, and the judge awarded your spouse 100% of your shared assets. Under Texas law, family court judges are compelled to divide shared property equitably. If the evidence shows that the ruling was clearly one-sided, this would be an example of an abuse of discretion that could qualify for an appeal.
This example is extreme, as most family court judges will not make such a biased ruling, but it goes to show just how substantial a legal error must be to support an appeal.
Additionally, you or your lawyer must have raised an objection to the judge’s ruling during the original court hearing. Remaining silent in court could make it more difficult later on to challenge the ruling on appeal.
Keep in mind that to succeed in an appeal, you must only use evidence from the original court proceedings. If proving your case depends on new facts, an appeal is not the best path forward. In this situation, consider a modification of the original order.
How to Appeal a Family Court Decision
If you want to challenge your family law ruling, you’ll need to begin by filing a notice of appeal with the appropriate trial court clerk.
- The notice must be submitted within 30 days of the family court’s decision.
- The notice will need to include a copy of the final orders.
- You’ll need to pay a filing fee at this time.
- The trial court clerk will submit your filing (called the case record) to the Texas Court of Appeals.
After the case record is filed with the Appeals Court, you’ll have another 30 days to file a series of documents known as the appellant brief, which includes details about the legal errors you’re claiming.
Another 30 days are then allotted for the respondent (the other party in your case) to file a brief of their own, and you’ll have another 20 days to respond to the respondent’s brief. From there, you can request an oral argument before a panel of Appeals Court judges.
Regardless of whether you’re granted an oral argument, the judges will read through the briefs and the case record before making a decision. The decision can include:
- Upholding the original ruling;
- Remanding the case for a new trial;
- Or reversing and overruling the ruling of the family court judge.
Have More Questions About Who Can Overrule a Family Court Judge? Talk to Us
Successful family law appeals are rare, but they are possible under the right circumstances. The challenge is creating a solid case to support your formal request. This effort requires an in-depth understanding of family law and the judicial system, which makes it vital to work with a qualified family law attorney to support your appeal.
At Parker & Aguilar, we know how devastating an unfavorable court order can be. Our experienced legal team is here to review your initial ruling and help you explore your options, including the potential for an appeal.
If an appeal isn’t the best path forward, our attorneys can help you understand the court’s decision and outline your next steps. In many cases, we will recommend alternative options, such as a post-judgment modification.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist you. We’ll listen to your situation, further explain who can overrule a family court judge, and provide you with expert legal assistance.
We currently help clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, please contact us for assistance.
Our offices can be reached at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office). We are here to help during this challenging time.