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When Can Family Law Matters be Appealed in North Carolina?

It isn’t uncommon for at least one party in a divorce, child custody, or support matter to be disappointed with the outcome of the case. Some people may think that filing an appeal is an obvious option to have another shot at a more favorable judgment, but that’s not how it works. When you appeal, the appeals judge will examine the decision made by the lower court to look for possible mistakes, omissions, or misapplications of the law.

How Do Appeals Work in North Carolina?

The North Carolina appeals court will look for errors of law or procedure[1]; it does not rehear evidence or question whether it would agree with the lower court’s decision. There must have been a mistake in the application of the law or in the trial conduct. Generally, the parties have 30 days after receiving a copy of the order to appeal[2].

Another crucial element of an appeal is the nature of the order in question. Only final orders can be appealed. Temporary orders, or interlocutory orders, cannot usually be appealed[3] except in very limited circumstances. An interlocutory order is one that does not address all the claims of the case[4]. Appeals of interlocutory orders can prolong the proceedings and create unnecessary delays in final rulings.

Appealing Interlocutory Orders

So, what happens if one party appeals an interlocutory order? This is not viewed favorably by most courts, and sanction may be ordered, as was the outcome in the Durham County case of Shebalin v. Shebalin[5].

In Shebalin, the Defendant filed a Motion for a Parenting Coordinator Appointment, which the Plaintiff attempted to dismiss. When the case was heard, the trial court judge entered an order for a parenting coordinator to be appointed. A video hearing was scheduled to decide who would act as the parenting coordinator, but the Plaintiff objected to the hearing and the appointment on the grounds that the order had been appealed.

The trial court judge continued the hearing to a later date, and the Plaintiff again stated that the appeal meant the trial court no longer had jurisdiction. The Defendant contended that the appeal was interlocutory, and the trial court proceeded with appointing a parenting coordinator.

When the case went before the appeals court, the panel held that this was an interlocutory appeal because the order being appealed was not a final decision. Sanctions were implemented against the Plaintiff and their lawyer because of their repeated baseless assertions that the order was final.

Appeals in family law matters can be valuable options in some cases, but knowing when you can file an appeal may require guidance from an experienced family lawyer in Greensboro, North Carolina. Woodruff Family Law Group has the expertise you will need throughout your divorce, child custody, or other family law matters. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

[1] North Carolina Judicial Branch. Court of Appeals.

[2] North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.

[3] North Carolina Bar Association. Guide to Appealability of Interlocutory Orders.

[4] Id.

[5] Shebalin v. Shebalin, 2022-NCCOA-410.