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How the Appeals Process Works

California Family Law Appellate Attorneys

Filing a Notice of Appeal

The party that files the appeal is the “appellant.” The non-filing party is the “respondent.” To begin an appeal, the appellant must serve and file a notice of appeal from a judgment or order in a family law proceeding. By filing notice, this gives jurisdiction to the appellate court, rather than the trial court who presided over the original case. Jurisdiction is the power and authority for the court to issue judgments and orders over a person or entity.

Also in the notice, there must be indication and specificity of what judgment or order the appeal is being taken for alongside a stated intention for appeal. The court for the appeal does not need to be specified; the court of appeal for the appellate district in which the superior court is located is where the appeal will be heard. Lastly, the notice must be signed by either the appellant or by their attorney.

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Notice of Appeal Timing

The notice should be filed with the clerk of the superior court within the earliest of these times:

  • 60 days after the date the clerk serves the party filing the notice of appeal with a “Notice of Entry” of judgment, or a file-stamped copy of the judgment, showing the date either were served;
  • 60 days after the date the party filing the notice of appeal serves or is served by a party with a “Notice of Entry” of judgment or a file-stamped copy of the judgment, with a proof of service; or 
  • 180 days after the date of entry of judgment

Payments Required with an Appeal

By filing the notice of appeal, the following payments are required:

  • Payment of a filing fee (Currently $775)
  • A deposit for the preparation of a clerk’s transcript or other processing and notification charges (varies depending on the size of the transcript)
  • If a reporter’s transcript is designated, then estimated charges for its preparation (varies depending on the size of the transcript)

Within 15 days after the superior court clerk has sent notification of the filing of the notice, the appellant must serve and file in the reviewing court a civil case information statement, with a copy of the judgment or order that shows the date it was entered.

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Appeal Briefs

The next documents to be filed are the briefs. The briefs include the points that the appellant and respondent are raising on appeal and include points and authorities in support of each point raised in the brief. In an appeal involving two parties, three briefs are custom, and do not require additional permission from the Chief Justice or the presiding justice:

Appellant’s Opening Brief

Must be served and filed 40 days after the filing of the record in the reviewing court

Respondent’s Brief

Must be served and filed within 30 days after the filing of appellant’s opening brief

Appellant’s Reply Brief

May be filed within 20 days after the respondent’s brief is filed

Specifically, in the appellant’s brief, there must be a statement of the case, which includes the nature of the action or proceeding, and the relief sought, a summary of material facts, and the judgment or ruling from the superior court. 

After the appellant’s reply brief is filed, the clerk of the court of appeal will place the appealed case on the calendar for oral argument. The clerk will send a notice of the time and place of oral argument to all parties involved at least 20 days before the scheduled argument date. 

Instead of the case being heard by one judge, the court of appeal consists of a three-member court system. The three judges will meet before the oral argument to discuss the case. The justices can then begin to develop questions and may be addressed to counsel during oral argument. 

After oral argument, one of the justices will prepare the opinion of the court. The opinion will be final 30 days after it is filed.

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