How to appeal family court rulings by Holly Lamb

Family Law|October 21st 2015

It will come as little surprise that judges’ decisions are often questioned. A spouse may feel that the financial settlement was unfair, or a parent may believe they deserve more time with their children. Feeling like an injustice has been done is understandably very stressful and can lead some people to question the fairness of the family law system.

While I would argue against those who blame the system itself for incorrect decisions, of course judges do sometimes make mistakes. They are only human, after all.

If you genuinely believe that a judge has made a mistake in law, you can try and appeal. However, there are rules to the process you must follow which are set out in the Family Procedure Rules 2010 or the Civil Procedure Rules, depending on the level at which the original decision was made. The sections of these rules which relates to the appeal process – Part 30 of the Family Procedure Rules and Part 52 of the Civil Procedure Rules – set out the procedure to be followed. They are designed to weed out frivolous cases. After all, if simply not liking a judge’s decision was all that was necessary to launch an appeal, there would be no end of them.

First of all, you need to know which court you should appeal to. This depends on the level of the judge who made the original order and you must be careful that you lodge your appeal notice with the correct court.

Timing is also important. Applications for appeal must be launched within a set amount of time. For both County Court and High Court rulings alike, the time limit is 21 days, unless a shorter timeframe is set out in the original order. If you do not begin proceedings within this timeframe, you may not be allowed to continue. If you do not lodge your appeal within the timeframe but still believe your case has merit you may be able to apply for permission to appeal ‘out of time’ but will need to provide a thorough explanation for the delay. Even then, there is no guarantee that the court will accept your reasons and grant you permission.

Permission to appeal

If you begin the process within the allotted time, there is still no guarantee that your appeal will automatically be allowed to proceed. You must first receive permission to appeal from the court.

In order for this to happen, the court must be satisfied that your appeal has “a real prospect of success” or that there is “some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard”. An appeal will have no chance of success whatsoever unless the person who is applying – the appellant – can demonstrate that the original judge on their case was plainly wrong under the law. This is no easy feat. If a judge rejects your application to appeal, you can ask the court to list a hearing to determine the issue.

The judge hearing the application for permission to appeal has several options available to him or her. They can grant or refuse the application for permission. Alternatively, the judge can list the subject for an ‘ex parte hearing’ – which does not require every party to be present, or an ‘inter parte hearing’ – which does. If your application for permission is successful at this stage, your case will be listed for a formal appeal hearing.

The appeal hearing

It is important to note that the role of an appeal judge is normally limited to a review of the original decision, unless the facts of the case require a re-hearing. The appeal court will not generally hear any new evidence from the parties that was not heard by the lower court.  The appeal will be allowed if the court decides the original decision was wrong or unjust because of a “serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings in the lower court” – that is to say, if something major went wrong during the original hearing.

The court may also restrict their review of the original decision to the grounds of appeal set out in the appeal notice, which must be filed at the beginning of the appeal process. It is therefore important to ensure that your application covers all the aspects of the decision that you wish to challenge.

This system is designed to give people a way to officially challenge judges’ rulings, but not to allow anyone with a gripe to clog up the family courts. So if you really want to challenge a decision, make sure you have legitimate reasons for doing so. You must also bear in mind the question of costs: an unsuccessful appellant may be ordered to pay his or her opponent’s legal costs.

And finally please note in particular:

The appeal process is complex and full of potential pitfalls. If you believe you have genuine grounds for an appeal, consult a specialist family lawyer at the earliest opportunity to avoid prejudicing your prospects of a successful appeal. Due to the technical nature of the process the above is a summary only and is no substitute for detailed legal advice.

 

Holly Lamb is a solicitor based at the Stowe Family Law London office. She has experience in a wide range of family law matters ranging from high net worth ancillary relief and prenuptial agreements to international child abduction cases. While her work is primarily based in England and Wales, she has also advised international clients in Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland and the US.

 

Author: Holly Lamb

Holly Lamb is a solicitor based at the Stowe Family Law London office. She has experience in a wide range of family law matters ranging from high net worth ancillary relief and prenuptial agreements to international child abduction cases. While her work is primarily based in England and Wales, she has also advised international clients in Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland and the US.

Comments(23)

  1. Name Witheld says:

    Thank you for the information. It made interesting reading. I have just finished a 5 year case with the Judge delivering the wrong Judgement even though my case was water tight and there was huge tax fraud with the respondents (even though he allowed us an ex parte order to request bank accounts). The Judge saw the bank statements and even said ‘They are bleeding the company dry’ but ignored the evidence after that (all 6 respondents) were unrepresented and the Judge acted as their advocate putting words in their mouths.

  2. ann says:

    What else is there to do if permission to appeal was not granted in second tier appeal. Can I request for a hearing to determine the issue. In my case there were 2 issues one was for shared care and the second was for recusal. The judge wrote that there was no prospect for shared care and failed to address the recusal issue. Please advice. I think I have been treated appallingly through out this case

  3. P says:

    I have been told by a judge that I am unable to have permission to apply to the court in my request to have contact with my granddaughter. I was told by the cafcass person, that I lack insight into the emotional harm that I am causing to my granddaughter by reporting concerns to police, and social services about the drug habits of my daughters numerous boyfriends, who all take drugs. The police indicate some possible use age of drugs when I informed them of explicit photographs which I had found, but they said they have found no evidence when they visited my granddaughter at her school! I suggested that the drugs were not at the school, but that fell upon deaf ears. I was not at any time given the opportunity to make a statement. I would like to appeal the judges decision, how do I do this?

    • Kate says:

      Sadly you have raised an issue which is really significant to your grandchildren and obviously yourself but to children’s services and cafcass and the Court it is just a pain in the backside and they just want to hear no problems and they have all done their job correctly regardless to the effect on the children, exactly the same experience I have had from local authority cafcass and family court and unfortunately now my children get to see their grandparents very limited which is such a shame because their grandparents dote on them as much as the children dote on their company. I am at the stage where I am waiting for my son to become of age in 11 months time to take it back to court himself which I am of absolutely no doubt that he will I am just really disappointed that the social worker involved didn’t have the courage to stand up and be heard and speak for my children best wishes hope everything ends up ok x x

  4. K says:

    Hi.I find your information very interesting.After my ex taking my 2 daughters from the south,where they lived,up to the north,7 hours away from me and their younger brother,I took it court through a solicitor,but by the time it got court,they had been there ages.The judge ignored a section 37 report saying they must come home and there were and still are many safeguarding concerns,including neglect,emotional abuse,and my daughters have been through 2 other babies being taken away from their father and his girlfriend who shouldn’t even be living with them.Terrible things have happened and I worry them all the time.The social services have said i need to go and get them but there is a court order ion place made by the judge as it was said they had settled there.this all started more than 2 years ago now,however it has been hell for me and my son.How do i go about appealing this decision as the judge said my son has to go there for christmas and if he doesn’t,then my ex can apply for custody.I cannot believe safeguarding was ignored,and this has been ongoing for ages but something needs to be done.

  5. Ardeshir Durrani says:

    “The appeal process is complex and full of potential pitfalls.” A system that doesn’t work, simply put.

    Judges get it wrong all the time and it is families who suffer as a result. This is unjust because a Judge may simply dislike you because you are opinionated and question the process and judgments. Family judges are predispositioned and suffer cognitive dissonance. A ‘circle’ of people who control family live, and ‘circle’ of people who have no answering body. Who watches the watchers?

  6. Philip Thompson says:

    I have had a hearing this morning regarding non payment of the balance of a wedding car! I had completed the booking details online & the customer confirmed the deposit & balance by e-mail. I was under the impression online, e-mails & texts were admissible in court? but the judge said even though I should have been paid, I never had a signed contract & as the other party said my car was dirty & I never had a bottle bubbly I had broken our agreement? if I cant win this because I dont have a contract signed but I have 100% corroborating evidence to support by e-mail etc!! they cancelled halfway through the booking!! how can I have broken a contract with the other party if there was no contract signed in the first place??!!
    common sense should prevail & these county court judges need to go back to school, sometimes you dont have all the details, but if they are minor like you never had a bottle bubbly in your car (which was free as per literature) then common sense must prevail?

    Please let me know if I am wrong or being difficult??

  7. W says:

    Totally bent, no justice what so ever! Especially the part that about not listening to any new evidence. If evidence wasn’t brought to the courts attention at the time of hearing which may have changed the final outcome then how is a decision to be made? If you had poor representation from your counsel at the time who didn’t submit the crucial evidence required then what chance have you got? Yes you can complaint to the company, ombudsman, but how is the courts decision to be overturned???????

    • S says:

      I HAVE TO AGREE WITH YOUR COMMENTS AS PRO BONA FAMILY MISREPRESENTED OUR CASE, was sacked after 2 hearings claimed legal aid for 5 months I had to sign a adverdavid,to say we hadn’t seen them for 5 months. I paid to revoke the order myself.. its cost 7.000 pounds since,allowed misleading and inaccurate information to be submitted to the crown,by local authorities. Dad wasn’t partied in until 22 nspcc week of this silly time frame. The local authorities took her at birth and told us not to attend hospital to see the birth,we then found out she was in fact lying and maybe dishonesty played a big role. They went to court 3 times before we were partied in got a intrum care order/section 31,and placement order and twin tracked it. At no time did we know about this the viability assessment was shocking and 3 care workers are not registered as social workers??? Again not allowed in lac review kept mixing sex of baby up. Was denied a advocate and makensie friend. An appeal has just been knocked back with the judge saying did not appeal in 21 days which it was also tripped other judges up and tried justifying them letting this through. The family courts is a vicious circle and money and greed driven the baby we finally met at 3 months old.. used the test on first time dad no support offered, no pre- care plan nothing she was 3 months old.. she sustained 2 head injuries and denied medical treatment,trying to justify saying all babies gets bumps and bruises saying she was distressed. We’re looking for help to download appeal papers for higher courts under articles 3/6/7/8 being broken. In a viability assessment apparently dad gave birth to children.. 1 males can’t give birth 2: this is first child. There’s many grounds to appeal I was told eventually it will go to supreme courts as threatened my son in judgment. Dad was in the army and wasn’t good enough care, dad has never touched alcohol/drugs or haven’t got a criminal record… but social services say different and was told to amend papers twice by police but never did… it seems there’s a large demand for children. Cafcass causing friction to look bad in family secret courts. Can anyone help please.

  8. Yusuf Mayet says:

    My nearly two years first hand experience of Family Law is: (a) don’t wast your money with Solicitors’, represent yourself; (b) the lawyers try to drag the litigation as long as they can to maximise their income, profit from peoples misery and they inflame the issue; (c) some lawyers get personally involved or have financial interests . (d) Family issues are always complex, the judges try their best, many judges are blunt and they will make it clear if they like you or not, this is good, no nonsense judges are the best e.g HHJ Bartfield or RCJ; (e) of course judges are Human, they listen to many cases and carry all that in their heads, and yes, there is discrimination e.g if you are a ‘Asian Muslim Male’ then most likely you shall be treated unfairly due to media coverage and stereo typing. Overall, I say the UK judicial system is one of the best in the world, try to resolve matters amicably, fight for justice like Mandela and Ghandi, don’t give up, have positive people around you. Do not ever let children down by walking away, they are placed in Trust to both parents. Safeguard and Protect children from being removed from England.

    Any person out there who want to grab a coffee and share experience, contact me 07973 175303, sharing the experience helps. Remain positive.

    (*Comment edited by the moderators – please see policy here: https://www.stowefamilylaw.co.uk/comment-moderation-policy/)

  9. unknown says:

    because my daughter and myself suffered domestic abuse in the last 2 and half years emotional abuse by my husband and his mum and her associate male friend. 19/03/2017 his mum impersonated me with an ISW that was ignored in court on the 11/05/2017. F has never bonded with our child never took up and parental responsibility as a father. He was supposed to arrange with an ISW and contact centres from the first court hearing on the 07/03/2017. nothing was done about it. just now 2 Saturdays he got in touch with a contact centre for 2 hours he got to see her he refused to touch anything that was provided for our daughter her nappy changing and food these concerns were all ignored by the court. Now 3 hours for 4 weeks and then 6 hours after that with his mum I have big concerns about these court order that was given my concerns that I had were totally ignored.

  10. Paul says:

    This system is UTTERLY MORALLY BANKCRUPT. Proceedures are deliberatly ignored. Verdicts are reached without any evidence at all. If you are a man you will be discriminated against and exploited. A closed court is a corrupt court. A court without jury or independant scrutany is simply working to a government agenda and should not be trusted.

    • Helen says:

      I couldn’t agree more.

      My case has been rolling….from judge to judge and hearing to hearing…. for 7 years…and the last one, being at the appeal court in London, the judge has made an even bigger mess of what was already a dreadful mess. This has now become a total of 25 hearings and 6 judges making mistake after mistake, after mistake, after mistake.

      Give them a simple case….and there is a small chance they will get things right…but throw in a few complications and they can’t cope. They just minimise everything…and that is disastrous because the most important details get scimmed over, given no more than a scan of the eye and no attention or consideration at all.

      I have now asked for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal….goodness knows if the judges reading the case THIS time will give the details more than 10 seconds of attention, or not. I’m not holding my breath!!!!!

      • Louise says:

        Thanks for your post. It echoes my experience as a reasonably intelligent person, I continue to be disappointed by the family law system: it is not fit for purpose. In order to succeed you need to ‘play the game’, in that if you are a woman you need to cry, play frightened, be demure, and never respond to flagrant criticism. Judges need grounding and lessons in respect to those whom they ajudicate for.

  11. e smith says:

    I am desperately seeking a solicitor that knows how to appeal a very out of time case.

    We have unearthed suppressed evidence which the court needs to hear.

    Please Call me if you know how to get permission for an out of time case heard in an Appeal court.

    Thanks

    • Cameron Paterson says:

      Hello – it would be useful to know what type of case it is

    • Rifat says:

      It’s not true, I personally feel I am a woman that why I have not been given justice but the other party who wasn’t a man and have no visa to stay in this country have granted my son’s custody to let him use my my son to stay in this country.

      Court personnely send all the paper to home office by saying we are going to give this child to this man what visa you can give him.

    • Rifat says:

      It’s not true, I personally feel I am a woman that why I have not been given justice but the other party who wasn’t a man and have no visa to stay in this country have granted my son’s custody to let him use my my son to stay in this country.

      Court personnely send all the paper to home office by saying we are going to give this child to this man what visa you can give him.

  12. Sam says:

    I have been through a two year court case regarding a child arrangements order . I have sought advice through mckenzie friends and have been given conflicting information regarding the best aporoach to my case . The judgement was discriminatory ( under the equalities act ) and the children’s wishes and feeling not heard . I have been told I should appeal , however it is significantly out of time . It would be useful to get some quality legal advice around this

  13. Janet says:

    I took my partner to court for an occupation order and won my case but his Barister asked for costs which the court said I had to pay but when I received the order it wasn’t mentioned so can his solicitor go back to the court and ask for a new order because they are saying there is an Error in the order will I still have to pay his solicitors costs

    • Cameron Paterson says:

      Hello: if you can let us know which part of the country you live in, I’ll ask a solicitor at our nearest office to drop you a line

  14. dchnusahdsoauidhE te4trevfe says:

    I am reading all the heartfelt stories and realising its not just the men that get hard done by. For women of African heritage, we have it REALLY bad! I pursued divorce proceedings against my Nigerian/born & bred ex-husband in 2015 (now British through marriage) as I had enough! We were married for 22years (November 1993 – March 2016 when nisi was pronounced). All assets (properties – all but 1 in his sole name) were acquired during the duration of the marriage. During financial remedy hearing in March 2017, we both has legal counsel and agreed to a consent order (signed by both parties) and he had (at his request) 6 month to pay my lump sum ((49% (me) – 51% (him)). Prior to March’s 2017 hearing, back in August 2016, he claimed his mother loaned him £200,000 – this was NEVER raised in earlier forms filled out and I have no recollection of this so-called loan EVER happening as his mother cannot afford to give him £5!. He went on to produce a badly forged document as evidence (flawed simple arithmetic – according to the document; mother’s loan is £205,000. So far mother has been ‘repaired’ back £1,500, therefore leaving outstanding balance of £198,000). Fast forward to July 2018, decree absolute was pronounced. Now almost 18 month on, he has still refused to pay a penny and we are both still in the same house! He has refused to move out into one of the other properties! I am not receiving child or spousal maintenance. Final hearing on 20th August gave him 3 months to pay my lump sum or the court will have to sell the properties to realise my lump sum. He is now seeking to appeal the judge’s ruling (in his words, “she does not know what she is doing”) as his mother’s loan – £198,000, children’s educational needs of £312,000 (sons – 24, 22, 14), £80,000 for new wife’s future marriage/training in the UK (she does exist) and litigation loan of £15,000 (totalling £605,000) should be deducted before I receive any money. Question. Is he able to appeal on the grounds mentioned?

  15. D. says:

    What are legitimate reasons for a family court order in regards to custody be placed on “stay” while immediately being filed for an appeal?

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