Family lawyers are often asked: “can you appeal against a decision of the Family Court?” The short answer is: “Yes, you can”.
Appeal to which judge?
There are several different routes of appeal, depending on the composition (i.e. whether magistrates, district judge, etc.) of the Family Court that first heard the matter. Appeals against decisions of magistrates and district judges are generally heard by judges of circuit level or above. Appeals against decisions of judges of circuit level are heard by judges of High Court level or above, and so on.
Permission to appeal required?
In almost all cases, permission to appeal against a decision of the Family Court is required. Permission hearings require a party to show that they have an “arguable case”. Permission to appeal must usually be applied for within 21 days after the original decision.
Grounds of appeal
The family appeal court will allow an appeal where the decision of the lower court was (a) wrong; or (b) unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity. Where necessary, the appeal court has the power to allow only part of the appeal.
As the Court held in Piglowska v Piglowski  2 FLR 763, a party who contends that the decision of the lower court was “wrong” does not begin the appeal with a ‘clean sheet’. The appeal court is required in law to bear in mind the advantage that the trial judge had of seeing and hearing the witnesses live; furthermore, there is a discretion vested in the trial judge; the appeal court must resist the temptation to substitute its own discretion for that of the trial judge.
New evidence on appeal?
The appeal court will not hear evidence that was not before the lower court, unless it (the appeal court) has specifically permitted this.
What happens at the end?
The appeal court has the power to affirm, set aside, or vary, any order made or judgment given by the lower court; refer any application or issue for determination by the lower court; or order a new hearing.
Demstone Chambers are Milton Keynes family law barristers. We are able to travel to all parts of England and Wales to help clients. For advice and assistance regarding applications for child arrangement orders, Family Court financial hearings (Financial Remedy Hearings) or to arrange representation for a Family Court fact-finding hearing, contact us.