Family Law Appeals
Walzer Melcher family law experts handle appeals relating to complex family law issues involving spousal support or alimony, child support, child custody, child visitation, community property, separate property, premarital agreements or prenups, breach of fiduciary duty, and more.
Appealing Family Law Cases
Our family law firm provides appellate services to its clients and other attorneys who need help appealing a trial court’s decision in family law cases. See below for a list of recent divorce appeals and links to briefs.
Walzer Melcher family law experts handle appeals relating to complex Family Law issues involving spousal support, child support, child custody, child visitation, community property, separate property, premarital agreements, breach of fiduciary duty, and more. We are one of the few family law firms in California that has the statewide reputation and breadth of knowledge to handle these types of complex issues. Top family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher is the lead appellate attorney for the firm, who has substantial experience in handling appeals and writs.
You may challenge an unfavorable decision you received in the trial court level by filing an appeal in the Court of Appeal (appellate court). Protecting the record for appeal in the trial court level is essential, or there will be no effective way to appeal. If an adverse decision is expected in the trial court level, or you want to protect a favorable ruling you are about to receive, it is helpful to engage appellate counsel early in the process — before the appeal is filed. Once a final decision is made by the trial court, you only have a short amount of time to file an appeal. If you intend on doing so, you should contact an experienced appellate attorney immediately to help you determine the applicable filing deadline.
The purpose of an appeal is to ask a higher court to reverse the trial court’s decision. The Courts of Appeal will review the record and determine if trial judge made a legal mistake that affected the final decision. A panel of three judges from the appellate court will decide the issue. The panel will hear oral arguments from both sides but will not accept new evidence or listen to new witnesses. An appeal is not a re-trial of your case.
Family Law Appellate Cases by Walzer Melcher LLP
The mother (Monasky) took an infant away from the father (Taglieri). The mother and father were both living in Italy. Mom took the baby to the US. Dad filed an action to return the child to Italy.
The Hague Convention “addresses a pressing andnever-ceasing policy problem—the abductions of children by one half of an unhappy couple” in order to gain an advantage in the child-custody determination accompanying the marriage’s dissolution. When one parent unilaterally moves the child within a nation, that nation’s domestic law is capable of resolving the dispute. But when a child is abducted across international borders, an agreement among nations was needed to provide a prompt and effective mechanism for resolving the dispute.
“The Convention’s mission is basic: to return children ‘to the State of their habitual residence,’ to require any custody disputes to be resolved in that country, and to discourage parents from taking matters into their own hands by abducting a child.”
“Habitual residence” is thus the linchpin of the Convention’s protections— the Convention is “based on the principle that the best interests of the child are well served when decisions regarding custody rights are made in the country of habitual residence.”
This case presents two questions regarding the Convention’s habitual residence standard—the standard of appellate review for district courts’ determinations of habitual residence; and whether an actual agreement between the parents regarding the place where the child will be raised is a necessary prerequisite to establishing the child’s habitual residence.
In a story that has become all too familiar, Deborah Diaz and Alex Montenegro could not agree on custody and visitation over their son, Gregory. During the child custody proceedings, Diaz and Montenegro entered into various stipulations, confirmed by the trial court, “resolving” their disputes over Gregory. In the last such stipulation, Diaz and Montenegro agreed to joint legal custody of Gregory, with Diaz having primary physical custody.
When Gregory was to start kindergarten, however, they were unable to resolve their differences and asked the trial court to modify its last stipulated custody order. After an adversarial hearing, the trial court awarded primary physical custody to Montenegro based on the “best interests” of the child. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the trial court applied the wrong standard.
Finding that two of the stipulated orders were final judicial custody determinations, the Court of Appeal held that the custody arrangement was subject to modification only if Montenegro established a significant change in circumstances. The California Supreme Court reversed the appellate court and held that the trial court properly applied the best interest standard, rather than the changed circumstance rule.
Although the Supreme Court concluded that stipulated custody orders may be final judicial custody determinations for purposes of the changed circumstance rule, it also recognized that many stipulated custody orders not intended to be final judgments.
After this case attorneys representing parties in custody cases were careful to make sure a custody order that was intended to be “permanent” was so designated in the stipulated order or if contested, that the court hearing the matter found or the record that the order was a permanent order.
Our founding partner, Peter M. Walzer, appeared as Amici Curiae on behalf of Minor Child with the following people and organizations: Leslie Ellen Shear, Encino, for Levitt and Quinn Family Law Center, Inc., Association of Certified Family Law Specialists, Inc., Los Angeles, Harold J. Cohn, Douglas Darnell, Robin Drapkin, Lyn Greenberg, Lee Lawless, San Diego, Hugh McIsaac, Nancy Oleson, Philip M. Stahl, Richard Warshak, Leonard Weiler, San Ramon, and Linda Wisotsky.
Christopher C. Melcher and Steven K. Yoda appealed a child support order involving a famous film director who made over 300,000 dollars per month in income but was only ordered to pay 8,500 dollars in child support. We convinced the Court of Appeal that the trial court made an error in awarding such a low amount of support and had the case sent back for a new hearing.
Steven K. Yoda and Christopher C. Melcher appealed an order requiring a United States service member to pay part of his combat related service pay to his former wife as a division of community property. We convinced the Court of Appeal that the trial court lacked authority to divide that benefit under federal law.
Christopher C. Melcher is amicus curiae in this appeal, which raises the issue (1) whether the trial court has statutory authority to strike a timely responsive pleading of a party and enter that party’s default in a family law action for failure to comply with the disclosure requirements of the Family Code , and (2) whether the trial court possesses the inherent authority to impose such a sanction in the absence of express statutory authority.
Christopher C. Melcher and Peter M. Walzer were co-appellate counsel with Garrett C. Dailey on this successful appeal to the California Supreme Court. Chris was the lead trial counsel for Frankie Valli in the underlying divorce action. One of the issues at phase three of the trial was the character, division, and valuation of a life insurance policy Frankie purchased during marriage on his life with community funds. Randy Valli was named the owner of the policy for income tax purposes and argued that the policy was her separate property because it was titled in her name. Frankie countered that the policy was bought during marriage with community property, so it is community property. The trial court agreed with Husband and awarded the policy to Husband as community property. Randy appealed and convinced the Court of Appeal that the policy was her separate property because it was titled in her name. Frankie petitioned for review and the California Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court properly characterized the policy as community property.
Christopher C. Melcher served as co-appellate counsel with James M. Donovan, Michael Glenn, Anthony D. Storm in opposing a writ petition filed by Wife regarding mediation confidentiality. Husband and Wife settled the marital dispute in mediation. They prepared and exchanged the required financial disclosures in mediation. Wife later moved to set aside the settlement agreement, claiming lack of disclosure and other grounds. Wife demanded that Husband produce a copy of the disclosures that were prepared in mediation. Husband objected because any documents prepared in the course of mediation are confidential and are not subject to discovery. The trial court agreed with Husband’s position, but the Court of Appeal reversed.
Christopher C. Melcher, Leena S. Hingnikar, and Scott M. Klopert were appellant counsel for Husband. Wife appealed a ruling against her on a breach of fiduciary duty claim. Husband moved to dismiss the appeal because the order she appealed from was not appealable. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
Christopher C. Melcher and Anthony D. Storm were substituted in as appellant counsel for Husband to file a reply brief on his cross-appeal. The case involved the validity of a premarital agreement, which the trial court ruled was invalid. The major issue was whether an award of attorney’s fees to Wife was sufficient. The Court of Appeal affirmed the orders.
Christopher C. Melcher and Anthony D. Storm were appellate counsel for Husband in opposing Wife’s appeal of an order that her trust income should be counted for purposes of making a support order against her. Wife dismissed eventually her appeal.
Christopher C. Melcher and Shannon Stein were appellate counsel for Husband in opposition to Wife’s appeal of an order allowing withdrawal of funds from a 401k account. Husband filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, and Wife agreed to dismiss the appeal.
Christopher C. Melcher and Jennifer M. Riemer were the appellate counsel for Maurizo R., who sought the return of his son who had been kidnapped from Italy by the child’s mother. The trial court denied Maurizio’s application to return the child under The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, finding that there would be a grave risk of harm to the child if returned to Italy. The Court of Appeal disagreed and held that the trial court was required to order the child’s immediate return to Italy, for custody proceedings in that country.
Christopher C. Melcher and Jennifer M. Riemer were appellant counsel for Wife in opposing Husband’s appeal. Husband claimed that the trial court erred when it issued evidentiary sanctions against him for his attorney’s negligent failure to file a witness list and exhibit list for trial, as required by local court rules in effect at that time. The Court of Appeal held that Husband failed to show any prejudice and affirmed the decision.