Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

5.5 - Changing and Appealing Court Orders

5.5 - Changing and Appealing Court Orders

After a judge approves your agreement or makes an initial order after a hearing, one or both parents may want to change the order. There are many good reasons why an order may need to be changed and parties, generally, need to let the court know what the “change of circumstances” are that requires a different order.

For example, an order for child custody and a parenting plan may need to be changed as the children get older and their needs, interests, and activities change. Child support orders may also need to change if the income of the former spouses or partners changes.

As previously mentioned, to ask for a court hearing to change your existing orders, you start the process by filing and serving a Request for Order (form FL-300) and other supporting documents.

If a person believes that the  judge made a legal error in making the order, he or she can appeal the  order to the California Court of Appeals.  In family law, most of the orders made in the case can be appealed right away after the order or judgment is signed by the superior court judge and stamped "Filed" by the court clerk. To appeal, a party must start the process by filing and serving a Notice of Appeal.

There is a relatively short deadline in which to file and serve the notice of appeal. It is either 60 days after either the trial court clerk or the other side serves you with notice that judgment has been entered in your case or a copy of the judgment stamped "Filed," or 180 days after the entry of the judgment, whichever is the earliest date.

An appeal is not a new trial or a re-hearing of the case or a way to avoid following a superior court order. The court hearing the appeal will only consider whether the trial court judge made a legal error.  in reaching a decision.  

The original superior court order remains in effect until the appeal is over, unless the judge who made the order agrees that it should be suspended or put on hold until the appeal is over.

Before you appeal, though, find out if an appeal is actually the best option. An appeal may not be the correct or easiest way to try to address what you feel was a wrong with the trial court’s decision.

Depending on the circumstances in your case, you may be able to file a request (or motion) in family court asking the court to change, fix, or cancel the judgment against you. Some of the more common requests are for the court to vacate or set aside (cancel) the judgment and enter a different judgment, reconsider an order, an application for renewal, have a new trial on the matter.

Talk to your court's family law facilitator, or you can talk to a lawyer for advice about these options.