Dec 14

7 Steps for a Successful Appeal and How to Quickly Move Your Case

Written by: Megan Dell


What Defines a Successful Appeal?

Appellate practice is an area that most law firms do not wade into because how appellate courts work can be confusing! Appeals feel like a never-ending series of deadlines, and most trial lawyers do not enjoy research and writing the way appellate lawyers do.

In South Carolina, appeals from trial court decisions are governed by the South Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure. All parties are entitled to appeal to the South Carolina Court of Appeals, which is our intermediate appellate court.  

Read ‘7 Steps for a Successful Appeal’ for a simplified description of how the appeals court works. 

successful appeal in divorce court

1 Beginning of the Appeals Process: The Notice of Appeal

For appeals from a Family Court judgment or order, the person challenging the order (referred to as the “Appellant”) must file a notice of appeal and serve it within thirty (30) days of receiving notice of entry of the order. The time limit cannot be extended, and failure to meet the deadline can result in dismissal of the appeal.

2 It Feels Like Homework: The Briefing Stage

Once the notice of appeal has been filed and served, the appellant must request – and pay for – the transcript from the trial court proceeding. After the transcript is received, the appellant must prepare their initial brief and designation of matters within thirty (30) days. Then, the responding party (referred to as the “Respondent”) has thirty (30) days to prepare their initial brief and designation of matters. The appellant has the final opportunity to respond by filing a reply brief.

The most effective way to move your case forward is to beat, or at least meet, all of the deadlines.

3 Details Matter: Importance of the Designation of Matters in Preparing the Record on Appeal

Generally, appellate courts do not take additional evidence; instead, they are limited to the “record” of evidence that was presented to the trial court. Each party’s “designation of matters” is a list of the documents and other materials from the trial record to be included in the Record on Appeal.

The appellant is responsible for preparing the Record on Appeal, including the materials identified by the respondent. If a party fails to list a specific exhibit or other evidence on their designation of matters, then it will be excluded from the Record on Appeal, and the appellate court may never see it.

4 More Homework: Submitting the Final Briefs

Each party must update their initial briefs to include citations to the Record on Appeal, which allows the judges to easily reference the evidence supporting the party’s argument. Once the Final Briefs are submitted to the Court of Appeals, the waiting game begins.

5 Traveling to Columbia for Oral Argument

As provided by Rule 215, SCACR, the South Carolina Court of Appeals can decide a case without oral argument. However, it can also set oral argument, and either party can file a motion to request oral argument.

If argument is scheduled, the Court of Appeals will issue a Notice of Oral Argument as provided by Rule 216, SCACR. Each party must present their argument in accordance with Rule 218, SCACR.

6 Getting the Result: An Opinion from the Court of Appeals

As provided by Rule 220(a), SCACR, when deciding an appeal, the Court of Appeals may affirm, reverse, or modify the trial court’s decision, or it may remand all or any issues for further proceedings.

In practical terms, the Court of Appeals can either agree with the Family Court’s decision (i.e. “affirm” it), disagree with the decision (i.e. “reverse” it), or change the decision (i.e. “modify” it). A remand occurs when the Court of Appeals directs the Family Court to conduct additional proceedings.

7 What Can Happen Next: More Motions!

Once the Court of Appeals has issued its opinion, either party can move for a rehearing or for an award of costs associated with the appeal. Additionally, either party may file a petition for certiorari to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

If neither party files additional motions, then the decision of the appellate court becomes binding.

How An Appellate Attorney Can Help

Click the link if you would like to know more about a new appellate rule in South Carolina.

Though we’ve broken the appellate process down to seem manageable, handling appeals is a skill that is developed over time and with experience. An experienced appellate attorney can help you understand why to appeal a case, and whether you might benefit from doing so. If you are looking for an appellate attorney in Charleston, schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys by clicking the link below.

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