Appeals in financial remedies cases
The first point to note about appeals is that the majority of appeals are unsuccessful. The barrier to successful appeals is high. This is partly because the courts want finality and to discourage people from appealing.
So the first thing a person considering appealing a decision in a matrimonial case should consider is: do I think I have a real prospect of succeeding? If you appeal and you lose it will end up costing you more money, possibly quite a bit more money.
The rules in relation to appeals are set out in Part 30 of The Family Procedure Rules.
If you want to appeal in a financial case you have to apply for “permission”.
The court will only grant permission to appeal where either:
- The court considers that the appeal would have a real prospect of success (rule 30.3(7)(a)); or,
- There is some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard.
When the judge at first instance (in other words the judge at the trial) gives their judgment, the parties or their legal representatives have a duty to raise with the court any deficiency with the judgment there and then rather than leaving the matter to be dealt with on appeal. A judge has the power to change their decision after they have given judgment but before the court order is sealed.
The application for permission must firstly be made to the court which made the decision at the hearing where the decision is made (rule 30.3(3)(a)). Therefore at the end of a final hearing one of the parties will sometimes ask the judge for permission to appeal against the decision they have just made. For example:
“Sir I apply for permission to appeal against the decision you have made. The ground of appeal is that you did not place enough weight on the Wife’s ability to go back to work once the children are in secondary education.”
Unsurprisingly judges don’t usually grant permission to appeal against their own decisions.
If someone applies for permission to appeal, the court will not usually call for representations from the other side: (Part 30, Practice Direction 30A paragraph 4.22)
If the lower court refuses permission to appeal an application can then be made to the appeal court itself (Rule 30.3(4) and Practice Direction 30A paragraph 4.3).
There is a time limit for appealing. An appellant’s notice must be filed within 21 days of the decision against which the appellant seeks to appeal (rule 30.4(2)). An application can be made to extend the time limit (rule (30.7). The application to extend the time must be made in the appeal notice and reasons must be given for the delay and any steps taken before the application was made (Part 30 Practice Direction A, @ 5.4).