Indiana is fortunate to have an intermediate appellate court where every litigant with a final order can appeal as a matter of right if they have a good-faith basis the trial court erred.1 A significant amount of the entire civil docket is family law, so there are thousands of family law final orders issued each year. If you do not prevail and are considering an appeal, the blog may assist you as it addresses the three strongest types of family law appeals, although every case may be taken to the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Special Findings. In Indiana trial courts, if a party asks for special findings, the trial court must issue a detailed order explaining its rationale for the order. In longer cases, many attorneys ask for special findings before the receipt of evidence and the trial court must issue such special findings. Where this is the case, the standard of review on appeal is different and in many cases, these are viable cases for appeal. This is because the facts the trial court relies on must be supported by the record (the written testimony, called the transcript, and the exhibits admitted a trial). If not, then the Court of Appeals may reverse. In other words, it is sometimes easier to prevail on appeal with special findings because there have to be facts and inference to support the trial court’s decision. It is more than the trial court judge just hearing the parties and deciding who to believe as in a general judgment.
Errors of Law. Family law has thousands of cases and statutes to apply in every case. Judges are wise and skilled, but occasionally apply the wrong law to a complex case of set of facts. Questions of law are given no deference by the trial court and if there is an error the Court of Appeals will give no deference to the trial court. In other words, the Court of Appeals is likely to remand if the trial court makes an error or law. One common reversal is where a trial court determines a weekly gross child support amount but does not include a worksheet. This may be an error of law because there is no documentary support and the Court of Appeals has reversed a number of cases where the trial court’s order does not have any child support worksheet.
Conflict in Law. Every year, the General Assembly passes new family laws that are signed into law and effective on July 1. When this happens, or when case law differs with statutes and the Court of Appeals disagrees, these conflicts—if they exist and these laws are applied to your cases—create a good case for appeal. This is somewhat commonplace because the General Assembly and the Court of Appeals are always trying to make better and more consistent laws to promote fair property divisions and the children’s best interests. If this conflict exists in your case, this is probably a good case for appeal.
While this list is of potentially good and viable domestic appeals is only a partial list, we hope you find them useful as you consider appealing a domestic case. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle appeals of domestic, civil and criminal cases that have issued final orders from all trial court in Indiana. This blog is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- A few specific classes of case go directly to the Indiana Supreme Court.