Unhappy with your Family Court Judgement? What rights do you have to appeal?
Assisted by Kirstie Barfoot
When you’re unhappy with a decision in relation to your family law matter, there can be a strong temptation to appeal. However, rules relating to appeals in the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court require more than a desire to have part of a matter reheard – you must establish that a significant legal or factual error was made by the judge that justifies bringing the matter back before the court.
The 2016 Family Court judgment made in the matter of Foster & Foster highlights two very important principles when appealing the decision of a family law judge, namely:
- It is important that your reasons for appeal are clear and legitimate; and
- You are unlikely to be granted an appeal if your issues with the hearing are connected with your conduct at trial.
In this matter, the trial judge reasoned that the assets held by the husband and the wife were to be divided equally. Following the decision, the husband provided the court with 19 reasons why the decision should be appealed. These reasons largely pointed to his legal representation, the provision of documents throughout the course of the trial, and accusations of judicial bias. The issue in this matter was not the filing of an appeal, but the merit behind it. The full court noted that during the hearing of this matter, the husband failed to disclose financial information, gave generally unreliable evidence, and failed to comply with various procedural rules. In these circumstances he was unable to highlight any error that was made, and relied largely on accusations against the court and his legal representation.
It is important to note despite the fact that the appeal in this matter was dismissed, all grounds appealed by the husband were considered by the court.
All parties to a family court proceeding have 28 days after Orders have been made for their case to submit documentation alerting the court to an intention to appeal.
If you are in a situation where you think you need to appeal a court decision, it’s important that you ensure that you have a clear understanding of the legal or factual errors that you feel need to be reviewed.
Contact our family law experts in Parramatta or Norwest for further information: