Published on:

The Importance of Meeting Deadlines in Appeals Cases

Timeframes and deadlines are a vital part of family law cases, both in trial court and appellate court. Whether filing an answer to a divorce complaint, responding to discovery requests, or objecting to a subpoena, deadlines are a regular part of civil court in North Carolina. In some situations, the consequences for missing a deadline only consist of additional paperwork or a request to the judge. However, there are times when failing to meet a deadline can prevent you from having your case heard, which is what happened in the North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Thiagarajan v. Jaganathan.

Timeframe for Filing a Notice of Appeal in North Carolina

In Thiagarajan, Wife appealed the trial court’s equitable distribution order entered on February 4, 2022. She was served with a copy of the final judgment on February 9, 2022, and filed her notice of appeal on March 11, 2022.

In North Carolina, Appellate Rule 3(c) states that the deadline for filing a notice of appeal in civil cases is 30 days from the entry of the judgment. This rule applies in cases when the party was served with a copy of the final judgment within three days after entry of the order. However, if service was not completed within those three days, then the 30-day deadline begins after service is received.

In this case, Wife filed her notice of appeal more than 30 days after entry of the order but precisely 30 days after being served with a copy of the judgment. The Court of Appeals examined these timeframes and civil procedure requirements to determine from which date it should calculate the deadline.

Judging by the dates alone – February 4th and February 9th – it seems as though Husband failed to serve Wife within three days, which would mean Wife’s appeal countdown began on the date judgment was served. However, any deadline that is less than seven days does not include weekends and holidays. The order was entered on a Friday, and Husband served Wife on the following Wednesday, which was within the three-day timeframe. Thus, Wife’s 30-day time limit began on the date that the order was entered.

Based on that, the Court of Appeals determined that Wife failed to file her notice in a timely manner, exceeding the 30-day deadline. This is a critical mistake in appeals cases because failure to comply with this deadline is considered a jurisdictional flaw, which means Wife did not invoke the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals. Without jurisdiction, the appellate court must dismiss the case. Contact an experienced North Carolina family law attorney for guidance on appealing your case.