The Appeals Process in Virginia for Custody, Visitation, Child Support, and Spousal Support
Once you have a final order in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, the fight may have just begun.
Both parties have the right to a de novo appeal, so long as he or she files the paperwork within 10 days of the entry of the final order and pays the filing fee for appealing.
This means that each party gets a second bite at the apple, as though the first trial had not happened. In a de novo appeal there does not have to be a reason, a mistake made, or any other justification. Rather in a de novo appeal you simply tell the clerk you would like to appeal the judges ruling, the clerk has you sign a piece of paper and you get a court date for another trial in Circuit Court.
Accordingly, if you are unsatisfied with the judge's ruling in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) Court, it may be worthwhile to pursue an appeal if you believe that the judge did not rule in the child's best interests or incorrectly decided alimony or spousal support.
You may also want to appeal if you feel the judge failed to pay attention to, or failed to give enough weight to, part of your case which you believe should have resulted in a different outcome.
How do you know if the judge did not rule in the child's best interests? There are several obvious signs:
- The custody/visitation schedule is exhausting for the child,
- The child begins acting out in a surprising manner after the order,
- The child expresses extreme opposition to the schedule,
- The child expresses anxiety or fear regarding the schedule.
However, many of these signs do not appear within 10 short days after the entry of the order. In order to ascertain whether an appeal will be worthwhile, you should contact an attorney and review the facts of your case.
If you were satisfied with the ruling from the judge at the lower level court, you can still be forced to participate in an appeal if the other party files an appeal. Simply because you “won” at the lower level (JDR) does not mean that another judge will view the case in the same manner. Be prepared to litigate as forcefully as you did at the lower level.
Note that each court in each jurisdiction has a different process! Ask the Clerk's Office about any rules that the Circuit Court has regarding appeals.
Below we have listed the general steps to appealing a Virginia Custody, Visitation, Child Support, Alimony case from JDR to the Circuit Court:
- The judge enters the final order at the Juvenile and Domestic Relations level.
- Once the judge signs the order (this may be the same day as your trial), you go to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Clerk's Office to note your appeal.
- Fill out the notice of appeal and pay the filing fee to the Clerk's Office.
- You will receive a court date to schedule the trial (sometimes called a Civil Term Day) by mail or the Clerk's office may schedule that date right then, when you're noting your appeal.
- You attend the scheduling day/Civil Term Day and select a trial date.
- The Court may order you to attend mediation or a pretrial hearing at the scheduling day/Civil Term Day.
- Appear for trial.