Can you Modify a Judgment that is Currently Being Appealed in a Family Law Case?
What is an appeal?
Generally, in legal actions an appeal is an action you take when you think the judge you are in front of got it wrong. For the most part there must be a final order for a judgment to be appealable. Usually, an appeal means that the lower court holds off on taking any further action while a higher court reviews the case and reviews that everything was done correctly. Family law cases are unique for a lot of reasons, one of them being that they have a continuous nature when children are involved. When children are involved courts have what is called continuing, exclusive jurisdiction after a case involving a child is in their court. This makes the issue of appealing a case involving a child more complicated than a normal civil case in which the final judgment is going to be final and the last word that a judge has to say on the matter.
Can you modify a judgment in the lower court with continuing exclusive jurisdiction while an appeal is pending?
The Fifth Court of Appeals of Texas at Dallas recently addressed this issue and they explained that a judgment can be modified even though the judgment is subject to an appeal in a family law case. That means, that even though someone is attempting to appeal a final judgment that has been rendered by the judge. The court held that a court of exclusive, continuing jurisdiction has the jurisdiction to hear a new modification in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship despite a pending appeal from a prior modification order. This means that even though a lower court’s previous order may be being appealed, that court still has the power to enter a new order regarding the children while that appeal is taking place.
The Fifth Court of Appeals acknowledged that there are some courts of appeals that disagree with their position on this, including the El Paso Court of Appeals. They also noted that Fort Worth Court of Appeals has since sided with Dallas on the issue and said that a lower court can enter a new order in this type of case even though there is a pending appeal. The court made clear that the normal standards for modifying an order must be met in order to have the order modified while an appeal is pending.
What does this mean for me?
If you have any questions about a family law issue including a modification contact Guest and Gray and we can schedule a free consult to discuss your case and let you know what options you have.