Kowal Law Group Logo

Top 10 Tips for Family Law Appeals

Tim Kowal     April 9, 2024

Every day as an appeals lawyer brings new puzzles. But some puzzles repeat. So in this episode, we compile the top 10 tips dispensed regularly to trial attorneys working in family court. They include:

👉 Know your appealable issues—appeal now, or lose it forever!

👉 Request a statement of decision. Don’t need to, you say? Judge already gave a tentative opinion, you say? You really need to hear this advice.

👉 Get the standard of review right, and use this tip when challenging discretionary rulings.

👉 Brief like an appellate attorney: Put cites on everything. Put headers on everything.

👉 Make a record!

And five more!

One thing we didn’t cover: Making Family Code § 2122 set-aside motions. Definitely consider that in your case.

Appellate Specialist Jeff Lewis' biography, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter feed.

Appellate Specialist Tim Kowal's biography, LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed, and YouTube page.

Sign up for Not To Be Published, Tim Kowal’s weekly legal update, or view his blog of recent cases.

Other items discussed in the episode:

  • Good example of the importance of the statement of decision: Abdelqader v. Abraham (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 10, 2022 No. D078652) --- Cal.Rptr.3d ---- [F.C. 3044 presumption of unfitness triggered by prior DV finding may be rebutted only by written findings—lack of SOD required reversal].
    • Tim’s writeup on Abdelqader here. One of CALP’s top cases here.
    • But Abdelqader was not followed in Marriage of Burger.
    • Abdelqader was followed in Hutchins.
  • Tim’s article on sanctions for appellate briefing defects: “Attorney who ignored appellate rules hit with $50k in sanctions”. Case is Mandir, Inc. v. Tiwari (D4d3 Mar. 27, 2023 No. G060437) (nonpub. opn.).
  • Videos from this episode will be posted at Tim Kowal’s YouTube channel.
Tim Kowal is an appellate specialist certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Tim helps trial attorneys and clients win their cases and avoid error on appeal. He co-hosts the Cal. Appellate Law Podcast at CALpodcast.com, and publishes summaries of cases and appellate tips for trial attorneys. Contact Tim at [email protected] or (949) 676-9989.
Get “Not To Be Published,” a weekly digest of these articles, delivered directly to your inbox!

"God made the angels to show Him splendor, … Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind."

— Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons

Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your fellow men justly.


"Upon putting laws into writing, they became even harder to change than before, and a hundred legal fictions rose to reconcile them with reality."

— Will Durant

"So far as the beginnings of law had theories, the first theory of liability was in terms of a duty to buy off the vengeance of him to whom an injury had been done whether by oneself or by something in one's power. The idea is put strikingly in the Anglo-Saxon legal proverb, 'Buy spear from side or bear it,' that is, buy off the feud or fight it out."

— Roscoe Pound, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law

"Moot points have to be settled somehow, once they get thrust upon us. If an assertion cannot be proved, then it must be settled some other way, and nearly all of these ways are unfair to somebody."

—T.H. White, The Once and Future King

"At common law, barratry was 'the offense of frequently exciting and stirring up suits and quarrels' (4 Blackstone, Commentaries 134) and was punished as a misdemeanor."

Rubin v. Green (1993) 4 Cal.4th 1187

"A judge is a law student who grades his own papers."

— H.L. Mencken

"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."

— Plato (427-347 B.C.)

"Counsel on the firing line in an actual trial must be prepared for surprises, including requests for amendments of pleading. They cannot ask that a judgment afterwards obtained be set aside merely because their equilibrium was slightly disturbed by an unexpected motion."

Posz v. Burchell (1962) 209 Cal.App.2d 324, 334

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

— James Madison, Federalist 62

"It may be that the court is thought to be excessively legalistic. I should be sorry to think that it is anything else."

— Hon. Sir Owen Dixon, Chief Justice of Australia

Copyright © 2024 Kowal Law Group
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram