Like everyone and everything in life, the judicial system isn’t perfect. Mistakes are made. Sometimes, these mistakes can result in an improper verdict or decision. Child custody determinations are no different. Fortunately, our judicial system provides individuals with the opportunity to appeal certain rulings or decisions believed to be wrongly decided. But what about child custody rulings, can those be appealed in Indiana? If so, when should you appeal? In this blog, we look at when you can appeal a child custody determination and provide some considerations for you to keep in mind when deciding whether to appeal.
In Indiana, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction in all appeals from final judgments.1 A final judgment is one that disposes of all the claims as to all the parties.2 Generally speaking, whether it be an initial child custody determination or a modification of an existing custody arrangement, courts consider these determinations to be final judgments. Thus, in most cases, a trial court’s custody determination can be appealed. We say most cases because, while you will eventually be able to appeal a trial court’s custody determination, it must be a “final order.” For example, in one Indiana case, the Court of Appeals dismissed a mother’s appeal of a custody determination because, while the trial court made a determination as to custody, the trial court failed to rule on other issues that were also before the court.3 As such, it was not a “final order” because it did not “dispose of all the issues.”
Deciding whether to appeal a custody determination is ultimately a decision only you can make. However, there are certain considerations that you can keep in mind in deciding whether to take your case to the appellate courts. First, one thing to keep in mind in making your decision is the timing of filing an appeal. In order to preserve your right to appeal, the general rule is that you must file your notice of appeal within 30 days of the court’s entry of your custody order. Another consideration when deciding whether to appeal is the alleged errors committed in the proceeding. For example, in some circumstances, there may be mistakes made during the proceedings that were relatively small mistakes that don’t affect the substance of the decision. On the other hand, there may be mistakes, such as evidentiary mistakes, that make the alleged errors a much bigger deal, increasing your likelihood of success.
The above information is general in nature, and there are exceptions to almost every rule. Appellate practice is extremely technical. If you believe the court wrongly decided your custody matter, or there were issues in your trial, obtaining skilled counsel is key to navigating the complex waters of appeals. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle all types of appeals, be it civil or criminal, throughout 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.