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.  

More information on how we approach appeals

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

Y.R. v. A.F. (2017) 9 Cal. App. 5th 974

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.

Opening Brief

Respondent’s Brief

Reply Brief

Opinion by the Court of Appeal, Second District

Marriage of Chapman (2016) 3 Cal.App.5th 719

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.

Opening Brief

Respondent’s Brief

Opinion by the Court of Appeal, Third District 

Marriage of Moman (2015), 3rd District

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.

Amicus brief

Opinion by the Court of Appeal, Third District 

Marriage of Valli (2014) 58 Cal.4th 1396

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.

Opening Brief on the Merits in the California Supreme Court
Decision by the California Supreme Court

Marriage of Lappe (2014) 232 Cal. App. 4th 774

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.

Opposition to Petition for Writ
Decision by the Court of Appeal, Second District 

Marriage of Kaiman (2015), 2nd District, unpublished

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.

Motion to Dismiss

Marriage of Aitchison (2014), 1st District, unpublished

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.

Reply Brief on Cross-Appeal
Unpublished Decision

Marriage of Carlson (2014), 1st District, unpublished

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.

Respondent’s Brief

Marriage of Martin (2014), 1st District, unpublished

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.

Motion for Involuntary Dismissal

Maurizio R. v. L.C. (2011) 201 Cal.App.4th 616

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.

Opening Brief
Reply Brief
Decision by the Court of Appeal, Second District 

Blair v. Blair (2011), 2nd District, unpublished

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.

Respondent’s Brief
Unpublished Decision