Appeals for Child Custody Cases in Virginia
If you’re unhappy with the custody order entered by your local juvenile and domestic relations court, it may be possible to have it modified.
Appeal to Circuit Court
Anything decided by the juvenile court is automatically appealable to circuit court. As long as you appeal your custody order within 10 days, you can get it heard in the circuit court. No matter what happened in juvenile court, the circuit court will re-hear the entire case and make its own determination.
Appeal to Virginia Court of Appeals
If you are unhappy with the circuit court’s ruling, you can appeal it to the next highest court: the Virginia Court of Appeals. In order to have your appeal heard, you must file it within 30 days of the entry of the circuit court order. Unlike at the circuit court, where the entire case was re-heard, this court will not take any new evidence under consideration. The Court of Appeals will only review the previous ruling for errors, and will not make corrections for any mistake of fact. Generally, the Court of Appeals doesn't find fault with circuit court rulings.
Appeal to Virginia Supreme Court
Your final option is the Virginia Supreme Court. You must first request that your case be heard. They only hear cases they are interested in, usually to set a precedent. Unless your situation is unique, they likely will not choose to hear it.
For most people, the appeals process ends with the circuit court because of the time and expense required to continue to fight is just too great. Additionally, because the Virginia Court of Appeals can only review the case for actual mistakes of law (and not mistakes of fact), there isn’t generally a very good chance that the court will find that something different should have been done.
If the court doesn’t rule your way, remember that all is not lost. Custody, visitation, and child support are ALWAYS modifiable based on a material chance in circumstances. If worst comes to worst, let it rest for a little while, and then bring a new petition later. If you start at the juvenile court level, the juvenile court will hear your case, and then you’re guaranteed at least one appeal to the circuit court.