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Can you appeal a child custody ruling in Virginia?

Child custody disputes can be very contentious. It is not unusual for one of the parties in the dispute to be dissatisfied with the judge’s decision to award custody to the other parent.

Fortunately, the dissatisfied parent can take solace in knowing there is recourse available at their disposal. That recourse involves appealing the custody ruling to a higher court. 

Child custody appeal process in Virginia

Basically, the custody appeal process largely depends on which court heard the original custody proceeding. There are different court levels in the state of Virginia, ranging from local to state-level courts. For instance, when you are appealing a ruling from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (JDR) court, you will have to take your appeal to the local Circuit Court. In this scenario, you will be required to file your appeal within 10 days of the final ruling in the JDR court. 

Once you have submitted your request in writing to the JDR court that originally heard your case, the Circuit Court will schedule a hearing of your case de novo. This means that the Circuit Court will set a brand new hearing for your child custody case. It is important to note that the original custody ruling (from the JDR court) will remain in force until the Circuit Court upholds or makes a new ruling. The Circuit Court’s trial will take place within 90 days of the date you filed the appeal. 

During and after the custody appeal hearing

The Circuit Court’s hearing essentially works the same way as the JDR court’s hearing. However, since your case will be tried de novo, your legal team can choose a different approach or present additional evidence to disprove the lower court’s ruling. 

Once the appeal court has made a ruling, a copy of the judgment will be submitted to the JDR court within 21 days. The ruling then takes effect upon reaching the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. 

Judges are human and are prone to getting it wrong when adjudicating on child custody matters. The decision to appeal a custody ruling should be weighed carefully. Talking with a skilled advocate will help you understand your legal options and make the best possible decision for your children. 

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