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Divorce and Custody Appeals in Mississippi

How much time do I have to file an appeal?

The first thing to know about an appeal is you need to act quickly. This is especially true if you are the party who is appealing. In general, you have 30 days from the trial judge’s final judgment to appeal. Sometimes, before appealing, you need to file a post-trial motion within 10 days of the trial judge’s decision. Bottom line, if you are thinking about appealing a decision, do not delay in contacting an experienced appeals attorney.

If the opposing party appeals, and you are defending, the same deadlines would still apply if you need to cross-appeal any issues.

What is the process for a divorce or custody appeal?

Regardless of whether you are the party appealing or defending, there are 4 basic stages to the appeal. Stage 1 is the preliminary stage where the notice of appeal is filed, and the court reporter and trial clerk put together the transcript and clerk papers. Compiling these documents typically takes several months.

Stage 2 is the briefing stage. After the appellate court receives the trial documents, the appellate clerk issues a briefing schedule. The parties’ attorneys then each draft briefs to support their legal arguments. Briefs are very important in an appeal. The appeals court generally decides the appeal based upon the arguments made in the briefs. This stage typically takes 4 to 6 months.

Stage 3 is when the appellate court deliberates. This stage lasts up to 270 days. The only action by the litigants during this time is oral argument, if it is granted.  In an oral argument, no witnesses are called, and no additional evidence is taken. Instead, the attorneys go before a panel of judges and argue the merits of their cases. Permission for oral argument is granted rarely. Most cases are decided on the briefs alone.

Stage 4 is when the appeals court issues a decision. The parties then decide if they want to ask the court to reconsider its decision (or if the Court of Appeals decided the case, whether to appeal again to the Supreme Court - this time the court must grant permission to appeal).

How long does a divorce or custody appeal take?

Expect a divorce or custody appeal to take a year to a year and a half. Most appeals will fall within this range.

How hard is it to win a divorce or custody appeal?

Generally, appeals courts defer to a trial judge’s decision in a divorce. Therefore, as a general rule, you are at an advantage if you are defending rather than attempting to overturn the trial judge’s decision. But the chances of success depend on the facts of your individual case. Some cases are more favorable for the appealing party if the trial judge clearly erred. You should speak to an experienced appeals lawyer to advise you if you have a good argument for appeal.

What court will hear my divorce appeal?

Divorce and custody cases start in chancery court. The chancery court’s decision can be appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Soon after the appeal process starts, the Supreme Court may, and usually will, assign divorce or custody cases to the Court of Appeals.

Do I have a right to appeal my divorce or custody case?

Yes. So long as you follow the correct procedure, you have an unconditional right to appeal your divorce or custody case from the chancery court to the Supreme Court.

What is the difference between an appeal and a modification?

With an appeal, you are appealing a trial court’s decision to a higher court. With a modification, you are not appealing from a decision to a different court. Instead, you go back to the same court that entered a prior court order and ask that same court to modify its prior order. A modification must be based on a material change in circumstances having occurred since the original judgment.

How much does a divorce or custody appeal cost?

The answer depends on how complex your case is. If you have an appeals case, call us to get a quote. We will estimate the costs for each phase of the appeal, and discuss payment options. In general, we require an up-front retainer and bill by the hour for our legal work.

What issues can I appeal in a divorce?

You can appeal any issues involved in the divorce, such as divorce grounds, alimony or spousal support, property division, business valuation, classification or valuation of other assets, child support, child custody, visitation, and attorney fees.

What other types of family-court cases can be appealed?

Most family-law decisions can be appealed. Aside from divorce and custody, cases to appeal include termination of parental rights, contested adoptions, grandparent visitation rights, decisions to modify prior court orders, and decisions to enforce prior court orders (also known as contempt).

Attorney John S. Grant IV has a career focus in appeals law.  If you need representation on an appeal, contact him today at 601-664-0044.

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