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Our office is devoted to legal representation in divorce, property division, support, custody and related family law matters. We serve clients throughout all of Northern California and routinely practice in Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Yolo and San Joaquin Counties.

Find Legal Help With Writs and Appeals in Sacramento

Dougherty & Associates has extensive experience and expertise in preparing appeals and writ petitions in family law and juvenile dependency cases. An appeal is a request to a higher court (California Court of Appeal) to review the findings or orders of a trial court for error. The procedure is very different from what happens in a family or juvenile court. The Court of Appeal works from a record of what happened in the lower court. It does not hear new testimony or evidence. An appeal is a very technical, specialized proceeding. Very few trial lawyers do appeals.

A writ petition is also a request for the Court of Appeal, or higher court, to direct a lower court to act or not act in a certain way when one believes the lower court has or is about to err. However, the attorney must put the record together rather than requesting the Superior Court to do that task. Also, in most cases, the Court of Appeal must give a decision when an appeal is filed. It can decline to decide anything in response to a writ petition. Writ petitions are generally more expensive to prepare and are reserved only for extraordinary problems where review cannot wait for the matter to run its course at the trial court level.

Top Ten Appeal & Writ Petition Tips

Most trial lawyers know how to read appellate court opinions but do not know how to prepare an appeal.
The appeal or writ petition process usually begins even before the trial proceedings are over. If the trial court appears to be making errors, involve an appellate attorney even before the final order or judgment is entered, if possible.
Because appeals and writ petitions are generated from a record, your appellate attorney does not have to have his/her office near the trial court. Hire the best and most experienced appellate attorney you can.
Writ petitions are rarely successful, but expensive. Don’t file a writ petition unless your appellate attorney feels it is one of the rare meritorious attempts.
The Court of Appeal assumes that the trial court did things correctly. Only when the issue is a pure matter of deciding the law does the Court of Appeal "start over" in its analysis.
Most appeals or writ petitions incur attorney fees in excess of $10,000, plus over $1,000 in court fees. Make sure that the issue is worth it and cost-effective.
Appeals or writ petitions for decisions where the court has broad discretion, like custody decisions or awards of spousal support, are very rarely successful unless the trial court did not follow the correct procedural rules.
Consider consulting with an appellate counsel who is different from your trial counsel. This can at least give you a different perspective.
Remember that appeals and writ petitions generally do not stop or suspend the trial court's ruling without further action. Don't presume that an appeal or writ petition means you do not have to follow the trial court's order in the meantime (with legal advice).
An appeal must be filed within 60 days from the date the court entered its order. If you wait past that time, only very, very rarely is any appellate review available to a party, even if the trial court was completely wrong. Don't wait!