Appeals and Motions for Reconsiderations in Arizona

Filing and winning an Appeal or Reconsideration in a family law case is difficult, but with the right approach, it can be done. We can help you figure out your options.

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Appeals and Motions for Reconsiderations in Arizona

There’s an old adage that says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” The same is true about hiring a good attorney. The best time to hire one was in the beginning. The second best time is now. This is especially true if your case already went to trial and you received a ruling with case altering inaccuracies, factual errors, or improperly applied legal standards

If you have received a ruling or order after your final trial, that was just flat out wrong, we can help you determine if you have any remedies. Appealing for a decision to be overturned or reconsidered is an uphill battle. They are often complicated and fact intensive. The good news is, with the right strategy, there is a chance that it can be fixed.

You may be desperate to file something, anything, to fix the current orders. But you need to be careful that you do not make the situation worse. If you file something that is procedurally incorrect, it can end any chance you have of changing the ruling. This area of law has strict deadlines and lengthy legal procedures, and it can be difficult to navigate without experience. We will you review the facts with you, explain your options, and be open about your chance of success. We promise that whether good or bad, we will give you our honest assessment.

How it works

The Appeals Process

STAGE 1: Deciding to Appeal

Anyone who receives a disappointing ruling wants to appeal it, but there’s a difference between wanting to appeal the ruling and having legal grounds to appeal it. The standards for an appeal are difficult because you are essentially putting the judge in your case on trial, and it is your burden to show the judge made a mistake.

Typically, that is not something a non-attorney can accurately assess on their own, and, honestly, it isn’t easy for an attorney either. Any good appellate attorney will need to dive into the facts of your case before they can say whether you have grounds. But before you spend considerable time, money, and energy on an appeal, you should know what your chances are going to be. That is going to require an open and honest consultation with an attorney.

Questions to Ask before Considering an Appeal

  • What did the judge get wrong?
  • What are the chances of success?
  • If I have a ruling that can be modified, am I better off waiting and not appealing?
  • What is the timeline for an appeal?
  • Does what’s at stake justify the cost of an appeal?

STAGE 2: Starting the Appeal

You must file three documents to get the appeal process started:

  1. The Notice of Appeal, which starts the appeal, must be filed in the Superior Court.
  2. A transcript of the of the trial (most family court proceedings in the state are not transcribed). You will need to hire a licensed transcriptionist service to transcribe the recording of your trial and any other hearings germane to your appeal.
  3. A Case Management Statement, which is a filing that is mostly administrative in

STAGE 3: Making Your Case

The Appellate Briefs must be filed next. These can be lengthy documents (up to 14,000 words for the Opening and Answering Briefs, and up to 7,000 words for the Reply Brief). On an appeal, you are not holding a second trial; rather, through the Briefs, you are trying to convince the Court of Appeals that the judge made a mistake that requires the ruling to be set aside. The Opening Brief is the crucial document in the appeal. This is where you will make all your arguments as to why the trial court (the judge who made the ruling in the Superior Court) erred in making its ruling.

In the Answering Brief, your opponent will then have their chance to respond and explain why the trial court got it right. The person appealing will then have a chance to file a Reply Brief. The Reply Brief is limited to responding to those arguments raised in the Answering Brief.

An oral argument is an optional last step (unless the Court of Appeals choose to set one), but either party can request an oral argument. During an oral argument, each side has 20 minutes to present their arguments to the three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals. The judges can (and do) interrupt to ask questions.

STAGE 4: Ruling and Options

After the matter has been briefed and the oral argument is held, then the matter is ready for the Court of Appeals to rule. Waiting for this ruling can take up to six months.

After the appeal is decided, a party may ask the Arizona Supreme Court to review the appellate ruling by filing a Petition for Review. The other party will have a chance to respond. The Supreme Court will then decide whether to hear the case—but they are not required to hear it.

Once the matter is finished in the appellate courts, the Court of Appeals will issue a mandate to the trial court, returning jurisdiction to that Court. If the Court of Appeals has overturned the trial court’s ruling, it may provide the trial court with instructions on what to do next.

Have Questions? We have answers

Appeals and Motions FAQs

Modifications of Family Law Order FAQs

How long do I have to pay child support for?

ou must pay child support until your child is 18 and graduated from high school or until they turn 19 years old.

What should I be doing to prepare for a modification?

The answer depends a little bit on your circumstances, but generally speaking, you should be keeping a timeline of events that have occurred and any evidence you might have to support it. If for instance, the other parent sends you a nasty text message, you should have a place where you write down the date and what was said, and then print out the text message and save it with the other evidence you have.  

If the Court ordered you to do certain things, such as attend counseling or complete a parenting class, make sure you do that and keep a record of it. The items the Court requires of you are not only mandatory, but i the judge is signaling to you what changes the judge wants to see before increasing your access to the child. You may not agree with the judge, but we recommend you follow what the judge has required of you to increase your chances for a better result next time around.  

For spousal maintenance and child support, keeping your financial records so that you are ready to go on discovery and disclosure is important and can save you a lot of time and money when you are ready to modify.  

What do the Arizona courts try to achieve in a custody case?

In an ideal world, judges are trying to create a situation where both parents are equally involved, and the child is safe, loved, provided for, and cared for. The parents communicate well with each other and both are involved in the child’s education and attend the child’s medical appointments, school events, and extracurricular activities without any drama whatsoever. That would be the ideal, but most cases are going to fall short of that—and many will not come anywhere close to that. In those situations, the child’s safety must be tended to first, but after that, the court and others have developed programs to help parents communicated better, coparent better, and keep the focus on what is best for the child. Attorneys are aware of these programs and can talk to you about what solutions might fit your situation. 

For child custody, is Arizona a “Mother’s state”?

No. Arizona is a gender-neutral state, meaning it does not favor one parent over the other because of gender.

The other parent refuses to follow the Parenting Plan. What can I do?

You have a few options: The first option is to enforce the Parenting Plan by filing a Petition to Enforce. A Parenting Plan is a Court order, and the Court can enforce its order. It can do so by imposing penalties on the offending parent or requiring them to attend certain classes or counseling to help them learn how to co-parent. Another option may be to modify the Parenting Plan. Depending on the infraction, the Court could make small adjustments to the plan, put conditions on the parent’s time with the child or adjust parenting time and legal decision-making altogether. 

Can the other parent and I agree to change our Parenting Plan?

Yes, you can. You two are still the parents. Except in cases involving third parties, whenever the parents agree, the Courts encourage. Most judges would rather the parents decide what is best for their child than leave it up to the judge. The Parenting Plan is a fallback provision to what you will do when the two of you cannot reach an agreement. If you would like your Agreement to become the new Parenting Plan, you can complete an updated Parenting Plan, have both parents sign it, and submit it to the Court. 

Why did Arizona change what “child custody” means?

In 2012, the Legislature changed the meaning of the termcustody because they were concerned too many people fighting for custody did not understand what they were fighting for. There was a feeling that some people pursued “custody” simply because it was what a parent is supposed to do. The Legislature thought if they made the terms more descriptive of the rights being pursued, parents could make an informed decision of whether it was something they wanted to pursue in Court. The Legislature hoped the change might lessen conflicts and litigation.  

Learn More About Family Law

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