The Supreme Court of Georgia and the Court of Appeals of Georgia make up the two appellate courts in Georgia, meaning that if you want a Court to take a second look at the ruling made or actions taken by a trial court, these are the Courts you must turn to.
Appeals are immensely useful legal processes that help to ensure judicial accountability, making sure the laws of the State of Georgia are and continue to be applied consistently. Georgia’s appellate courts take on even greater significance when you consider that for most people living in Georgia, the only experience they will have with the judiciary, if any, will be with a state trial court (either a county State or Superior Court). With that in mind, let’s briefly explore when an appeal can be had and what the types of appeal are available in Georgia.
There are three types of appeals in Georgia: Direct, Discretionary, and Interlocutory. For the purposes of this blog post, the provisions of the appellate statutes relating to family law topics will be covered, however if you want to read more about the universe of available appeals read O.C.G.A. §§ 5-6-34 and 5-6-35.
A Direct Appeal in Georgia means that once a judgment or order is entered, a party can submit that decision to an appellate court for review. In family law, all judgments or orders in child custody cases awarding, refusing to change, or modifying child custody or holding or declining to hold persons in contempt of such child custody judgment or orders are directly appealable. Where an appeal is taken for a judgment or order granting nonmonetary relief in a child custody case, such judgment or order being challenged remains in effect until reversed or modified by the reviewing court unless the trial court states otherwise in its judgment or order. This means that even if you feel the trial court got the child custody issue wrong, unless it is specifically addressed, this order continues to be in effect until otherwise resolved. A party has thirty days from the issuance of a directly appealable order to seek an appeal.
On the other end of the appeal spectrum is a Discretionary Appeal. Discretionary Appeals involve an application to an appellate court laying out the errors a party wishes to have addressed and stating why the appellate court has jurisdiction. In family law, appeals from judgments or orders in divorce, alimony, and other domestic relations cases including, but not limited to, granting or refusing a divorce or temporary or permanent alimony or holding or declining to hold persons in contempt of such alimony judgment or orders are discretionary. The appellate court can choose whether they want to review the case or not. In they choose not to hear the case, there is no appeal. A party has thirty days from the entry of the order if they want to ask the Court to review their application.
In between the Direct and Discretionary Appeals is the Interlocutory Appeal. An Interlocutory Appeal can happen when the trial court issues a temporary order, decision, or judgment, not otherwise subject to direct appeal. The trial judge must issue a certificate of immediate review, representing that the judgment is of such importance to the case that immediate review should be had. This must be filed within ten days of the entry of the order a party is seeking to appeal. Once the certificate is filed, the interlocutory application must be filed with the appropriate appellate court within ten days. The appellate court then has forty-five days to decide whether they will take up the appeal.
Trial Court Judges are human and make mistakes. The appeals process helps to right the ship when mistakes are made in a legal matter. If you believe you may have an appellate issue regarding your family law case, reach out to the experienced team at The Manely Firm, P.C. who can assist you in evaluating your case and charting out a route to success.