“I want to appeal!” is a statement we hear often. However, many individual’s knowledge of appeals is very limited. This is understandable as the appeals process can be a long and confusing one, even for attorneys. When it comes to civil appeals, the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure provides a party with the right to appeal a final judgment.1 But what does this mean? Is a child custody ruling a final judgment? And how can I appeal a child custody ruling? In this blog, we provide a brief overview of the appellate process in Indiana and look at the procedure for appealing a child custody ruling.
As mentioned above, in Indiana, an individual has the right to appeal a final judgment.2 A final judgment is one that disposes of all the claims as to all the parties.3 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.4 As such, it was not a “final order” because it did not “dispose of all the issues.”
Assuming your child custody ruling is a “final judgment”, the next step in the appeal process is to file what is called a Notice of Appeal. The filing of a notice of appeal is how the appellate process is initiated. The crucial piece of information that you must know for a notice of appeal is the required time limit for filing the notice. In general, an individual has thirty (30) days from the time the final judgment was issued in which to file a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals.5 For example, if a court issued an order modifying physical custody of your children on September 1, then you would generally have until October 1 to file your notice of appeal. This is important because failure to file a timely notice of appeal can result in a waiver of your right to appeal the order.
The above information is general in nature. Know 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.