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What is an Interlocutory Order?

If you have an active or pending family law case, you have likely heard many terms that you’re not familiar with. The complexity of North Carolina laws can make family law proceedings difficult to navigate, especially when you aren’t fluent in legalese. If your case has already been through a preliminary hearing or has temporary order in place, you may have heard the word interlocutory.

Outside of the legal world, this is not a common word, so it’s understandable if you have questions about what it means for your pending case.

What Does Interlocutory Mean?

The dictionary definition of interlocutory is “made during the progress of a legal action and not final or definitive[1].” But what does this mean for your North Carolina family law case? Because interlocutory orders are temporary, it means the issues addressed in the order will likely be discussed again at a future hearing. It also means that appealing the decision laid out in the order is probably not a good idea.

Appeals in North Carolina

All civil and juvenile case appeals are heard by the North Carolina Court of Appeals[2], but appealing an interlocutory order is something you should discuss with an experienced family lawyer in Greensboro, North Carolina. It is likely that this type of appeal will be dismissed by the appeals court, as was the case in Preston v. Preston [3]out of Mecklenburg County.

Defendant in the Preston case filed motions to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction and venue. After hearing argument and evidence on these motions from Defendant, the trial court ruled that jurisdiction was proper. Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions and attorney fees, which the trial court granted. Defendant was ordered to pay $15,000 in attorney fees, which they appealed.

The appeals court determined that the appeal was interlocutory because a final order had not been entered, and the action was still pending. Where Preston was dismissed as interlocutory, the case of Beasley v. Beasley was allowed to be heard in the Court of Appeals even though a final order had not been entered. In Beasley, there were elements that affected a substantial right of one party.

There are few absolutes, and the prohibition on appealing interlocutory orders is no exception. There are limited circumstances, as in the Beasley case, in which an interlocutory order can be appealed, including if the order affects a substantial right[4]. However, as in the Preston example above, most appeals of temporary orders do not have favorable outcomes for the appealing party.

Reach out to the family law attorneys at Woodruff Family Law Group to discuss your case and avoid confusion over whether your temporary order can be appealed. Our team of experienced family lawyers in Greensboro, North Carolina, is ready to help you with all your divorce, custody, support, or other family law needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

[1] Merriam-Webster. Interlocutory.

[2] North Carolina Judicial Branch. Routes of Appeal.

[3] Preston v. Preston, 2022-NCCOA-207, 872 S.E.2d 141.

[4] North Carolina General Statute. § 1-277.  Appeal from superior or district court judge.