Skip to Content


Michigan Appellate Lawyers for Divorce and Family Law Appeals

Did you receive an unfavorable outcome in a family law case in Michigan? You are likely feeling stressed out, frustrated, and unsure of what to do next. It is crucial that you understand your appellate law rights. In family law cases which were decided by a referee, the decision must first be appealed to the Circuit Court judge; if your case was decided by a judge, then the decision can be appealed to the Court of Appeals — but, in either case, you only have a limited amount of time to do so. At Kraayeveld Family Law, our experienced appellate lawyers handle divorce and family law appeals throughout Michigan, and are ready to go the extra mile to help you with your appeal. Get in touch with us today to get help with this process.

Your Guide to the Family Law Appeals Process in Michigan

There are specialized rules and procedures that you need to know. In this article, we provide you with a comprehensive guide to the key things you need to know about the family law appeals process in Michigan.

Background: A Family Law Appeal is Not a Retrial 

To start, it is important to understand what an appeal is and what it is not. A family law appeal is not a retrial of the case. Put another way, the appeals court largely does not hear new evidence or hear testimony from witnesses. Rather, the Court of Appeals reviews the decision made by the trial court to determine if the judge made any errors in law or procedure.

The focus of an appeal is on the record of the trial court, such as the transcripts of any hearings and written documents filed in the case. The purpose of an appeal is to correct material errors that may have been made during the trial, not to relitigate the case from the start. Understanding this fundamental aspect of the process is essential for a family law appeal in Michigan.

Many Family Law Cases Can Be Appealed in a Michigan Circuit Court—But Some Require Permission of a Higher Court

Many family law cases can be appealed in Michigan.  Some cases can be appealed automatically and some cases may need permission from the higher court. You should understand the difference between an “appeal by right” and an “appeal by leave”:


  • Appeal By Right: An appeal by right means that a party has the automatic right to file an appeal without seeking permission from the higher court.
  • Appeal By Leave: An appeal by leave means that a party must first ask permission from the higher court before they can file an appeal.


If you have any questions about whether or not you have the right to appeal or must appeal by leave, contact our Michigan appellate lawyers for immediate assistance.


What Types of Family Law Matters Can Be Appealed?

As long as you meet the legal criteria — both substantive and procedural, including filing within the time limits required — you can appeal most family law matters. But meeting those criteria can be a tall order. This is where experience really comes into play. Not all divorce attorneys also have appellate law experience.

With decades of experience, Kraayeveld divorce and custody attorneys regularly handle appeals in family law-related matters. Our lawyers represent both existing clients in appellate matters and individuals who had different trial counsel and who now need help seeking a just result on appeal. Some examples of matters we regularly handle on appeal are:

You Must File a Notice of Appeal in a Timely Manner (Very Strict Deadline)

One of the single most important things to know about family appeals in Michigan is that there are extremely strict deadlines. The process is initiated through the filing of a document called a Claim of Appeal. Our state’s court rules impose strict deadlines for filing a Claim of Appeal. What happens if you fail to comply with the deadline? You could lose out on your right to appeal or at a minimum make the appellate process more time consuming, less successful and more expensive. In many family law cases in Michigan, you must file the Claim of Appeal within 21 days after the entry of the judgment or final order you are appealing.

You Will Make Your Case Through an Appellate Brief (Must Raise Grounds for Appeal)

A Claim of Appeal is not where you make your case in a family law appeal. Instead, you will make your case through an appellate brief. The appellate brief is the written argument that you submit to the higher Michigan court explaining why the lower court decision was incorrect and why you believe the appeal should be granted. Some potential grounds for appeal in a Michigan family law case include:

  • A misapplication of law;
  • Improper admission or exclusion of evidence;
  • Abuse of judicial discretion; and
  • Other material legal or procedural errors.

The appellate brief is the foundation of your case, and it is critical that you present a well-reasoned and persuasive argument to the higher court. An appellate brief is a complex, highly-technical legal document that outlines the facts, Michigan law, court rules and Rules of Evidence. It is imperative that you work with a top Michigan family law attorney who has proven experience drafting appellate briefs and arguing cases in front of higher courts.

FAQs: Family Law Appeals Frequently Asked Questions

What Are My Chances Of Winning A Divorce Appeal?

When you are faced with a bad result after your divorce trial, you may wonder if it’s worth it to appeal the decision. An important step in the decision-making process is to determine the likelihood of a successful appeal. When our clients visit Kraayeveld Family Law to determine their chances of a successful appeal, they often feel that an appeals attorney does not look at the judgment the same as they do. An appellate attorney will review your trial results for several of the most common grounds for reversal on appeal.

Error Of Law

If the judge made an error of law, your chances of success on appeal greatly increase. When the judge did not apply the correct legal standard, the Court of Appeals may reverse the trial court’s ruling. It is important for an experienced appellate attorney specializing in family law appeals to review your case to determine if such an error was made in your case.

Abuse Of Discretion

Abuse of discretion is a common reason why cases are appealed. When the judge abused his or her discretion, it means that the judge made a ruling that was unreasonable, wrong, and not justified by the facts or the law. For example, the judge may rule that an expert is not qualified to testify as an expert, or an exhibit will not be admitted into evidence because the judge found it to be not genuine. Such rulings could have significant consequences and change the outcome of your case. Judges receive a fair amount of discretion when making decisions and an abuse of discretion must be significant for the appeal to be successful.

Error In Factual Findings

When a judge hears the testimony and reviews the testimony, he or she is present, can see the witness’s demeanor, and the Court of Appeals generally trusts the judge as a fact finder of the case. Even so, sometimes, a judge may make a mistake. For example, when the judge writes down or remembers incorrect values for assets, mixes up children’s schools, those factual errors could greatly impact the outcome of the case. Factual finding errors do happen, but that does not always mean that it automatically carries sufficient weight to warrant a reversal.

Findings Against The Great Weight of The Evidence.

When the judge’s findings are against the great weight of the evidence, it means that the judge’s ruling is contrary to the vast majority of the evidence. In other words, the judge’s ruling is plain wrong. Clients often want to pursue this route when appealing a judge’s decision. During months of litigation leading up to trial, each client becomes strongly entrenched in their position, and it is difficult to view the situation from an opposing viewpoint. For this reason, the judge is given a lot of latitude as the ‘trier of fact.” In other words, the judge is deemed to be in the best position to make a judgment call about truthfulness.

If The Trial Judge Ruled Against Me, What Are My Chances Of Success On a Michigan Family Law Appeal?

It depends. There are numerous factors that can affect your likelihood of success on appeal, and the issues addressed in appellate court are very different from those addressed at the trial level. An experienced appellate attorney specializing in family law appeals would be able to evaluate your case and provide you with a better assessment of your chances of success based on the specific circumstances of your case.

What is the Difference between a trial court and an Appellate court?

The difference between a “trial court” and an “appellate court”:

  • Trial Court: The initial litigation occurs at the trial court level, in family law cases also known as the circuit court or trial court. This is where the case is heard by a judge or referee and a decision is made.
  • Appellate Court: If a party believes that the trial court made an erroneous ruling, they have the option to appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Once the Court of Appeals rules on the matter, the litigant has the option to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, the highest court in the state.


Get in Touch with Our Experienced Michigan Appellate Lawyers Today

If you need assistance with a family law appeal in Michigan, it is advisable to consult with an experienced Michigan family law appellate attorney. They can guide you through the process, help you understand your rights, and provide the necessary legal representation to maximize your chances of success.