Divorce, custody and support matters commence at the Court of Common Pleas level ("Trial Court") in the Pennsylvania court system. Subsequently, parties have the opportunity to file an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania if they are unsatisfied with the outcome of their matter at the Court of Common Pleas level. A litigant filing an appeal is known as the Appellant. The litigant who did not file the appeal is known as the Appellee.
Most family law matters appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court are final orders entered at the conclusion of a custody trial, support trial, equitable distribution trial or after the entry (or denial) of a Protection from Abuse Order. It is important to note that a litigant only has 30 days from the entry of the final Order by the Trial Court to file an appeal to the Superior Court.
It is not uncommon for litigants to seek new legal counsel to handle their appeal however it is important to act quickly in engaging new counsel to ensure that appellate counsel has sufficient time to completely review the trial court record (transcripts and pleadings) to determine if there is basis for filing an appeal. A Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of entry of the Trial Court's final Order. The Appellee in an appeal should also hire appellate counsel immediately as they will have deadlines put in place by the Superior Court in responding to the Appellant's filings.
After making a decision to proceed with an appeal, a Statement of Matters Complained of on Appeal must be drafted and filed. The Statement of Matters Complained of on Appeal must lay out specific argument alleging how the trial court committed an error of law or abused its discretion. Our office routinely handles appellate court matters in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. This process includes a complete review of the trial court record, discussion with the client to determine their specific concerns on appeal, engaging in legal research to support the issues raised in the appeal, drafting all necessary appellate briefs, selection and reproduction of all aspects of the record referenced in the appellate brief and appearing in Superior Court for oral argument on the case.