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How do you appeal a Family Court judge in South Carolina?

A common question we receive from prospective clients is appeal a Family Court order. This is a practice area that we are regularly involved with. This article will describe the process of appealing a final order issued by a South Carolina Family Court Judge.

Filing an appeal can help you challenge a mistake made by a Family Court judge. This can include challenging decisions regarding alimony, attorney's fees, custody, property distribution, termination of parental rights, or visitation.

All final orders may be appealed. Appeals are heard by a special court called the South Carolina Court of Appeals. This court is in Columbia, and hears Family Court appeals from around South Carolina. Three judges will be assigned by the court to consider an appeal. These judges are full-time appellate judges, and they will not have been previously involved in your case before.

In order to request an appeal a document called a "Notice of Intent to Appeal" must be filed with the South Carolina Court of Appeals and served on all other parties within 30 days of receipt of the final order. The 30 day period starts running when either you or your lawyer received the order (whichever occurred first). Other parties means the lawyer for the "other side" of your case, as well as any guardian ad litem. The side making the appeal is called the Appellate and the side responding to the appeal is called the Respondent.

The next step is to obtain a copy of the transcript from the final hearing or trial in your case. The transcript is prepared by the court reporter who was in the courtroom. It usually takes a few months to have the transcript prepared. We will order the transcript at the same time we file the "Notice of Intent to Appeal" form.

After we receive the transcript we will begin preparing a document describing the appeal to the Court of Appeals. This document is called a "brief" and it will describe, in legal terms, the legal decisions that the judge made that are being challenged in the appeal. A copy of the brief is sent to the Court of Appeals and also to any other parties to the case. The Respondent will then have a chance to prepare their own brief.

After all of the briefs have been submitted the Court of Appeals will assign the case to a three judge panel. These judges will review the briefs in their offices, and then may invite the parties to appear in Court for a short hearing on the appeal. This hearing is called Oral Argument, and is conducted very differently than a hearing in Family Court.

The Court of Appeals provides notification of a decision by issuing a written opinion. The opinion is written by the Court, they do not ask the "winning" lawyer to prepare it for them. All parties to the appeal will receive a copy of the written decision.

Categories: Family Law


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Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr. LLC
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Phone: (888) 304-2418