Stages of a Texas Family Law Appeal

The Three Stages of a Texas Family Law Appeal

A family law appeal has three primary stages. They are (1) perfecting the appeal, (2) briefing the appeal and (3) submitting the appeal.

Perfecting a Texas Family Law Appeal

Perfecting the appeal of a family law case is time-sensitive.  If the correct documents are not timely filed, the appellate court will not have jurisdiction of the appeal, and the appeal must be dismissed.

To perfect a family law appeal, the appellant normally files four documents: (1) the Notice of Appeal; (2) the Request for Reporter’s Record; (3) the Request for Clerk’s Record; and (4) the Docketing Statement. In addition, the appellant must pay a fee of $195 to the clerk of the appropriate appellate court.

Briefing the Texas Family Law Appeal

Briefing the appeal takes place after the record (consisting of the Reporter’s Record and the Clerk’s Record) has been filed. The appellant’s brief normally is due thirty days after the last-filed part of the record. The appellee then has twenty-five days within which to file a response, after which the appellant may file a reply within twenty days of the appellant so wishes.

Submitting a Texas Family Law Appeal

Submitting the appeal is the final step. “Submission” means formal presentation to the court of appeals.  Most appeals are not only briefed but argued orally to a panel of judges (if in the court of appeals) or to all nine judges of the Texas Supreme Court.

When an appeal is argued orally, the appellant’s lawyer has twenty minutes to argue, then the appellee’s lawyer has twenty minutes, and finally the appellant’s lawyer has five minutes to argue in rebuttal. These deadlines are strictly enforced by the appellate judges; a “green light/yellow light/red light” system is in effect, with the lights visible to the lawyers as they argue.

Because usually a number of months pass between briefing and submission, it is customary for counsel to write a letter to the clerk of court perhaps two weeks before submission to alert the court to relevant cases that have been decided since briefing.

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