In most family cases, the litigation does not and should not end by the Associate Judge or the Magistrate Judge’s final ruling.

As these cases are not jury demandable, often times the assigned Judge may issue multiple rulings, including final decree of divorce, division of property, alimony and child support as well as the physical and legal custody of the children.  Significant and life altering decisions and all by a single Judge who may be subjectively objective.

And although most family judges are experienced, fair and equitable in dispensing decisions well supported in fact and law – there are cases and circumstances in which the facts and the law do not support the decision and an appropriate remedial step would be to have an appellate review.

This blog addresses the appellate procedure and steps in the family cases:

Notice of Appeal:

The appellate process begins by filing of the notice of appeal (PDF document enclosed).

The notice of appeal must be filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken unless a different time is specified by the Rules.

Time to file:

The time for filing of the notice of appeal runs from the entry on the Superior Court docketing of the FINAL order.  Temporary orders are not generally considered final order for appellate purposes.

Appeal from Magistrate Judge Order:

The order issued from the MJ is not directly appealable to the Court of Appeals.  There is an intermediary review: an Associate Judge.

That is, the appeal will be after filing will be certified to an Associate Judge for review and thereafter the Associate Judge’s review may be appealable to the Court of Appeals.

Time limits to Appeal MJ’s Order:

Any final judgment or order issued by a magistrate judge shall constitute a final judgment or order and such order or judgment shall contain notice that a party may within 30 days after entry of a magistrate judge’s judgment or order file a motion for review of that judgment or order.

However there is a significant time restriction there: the 30 days appeal process from the MJ order is only applicable to “expedited proceedings for establishment, enforcement or modification of child support orders.”

That is although appealing from an Associate Judge final order is designated within 30 days – in case the order was issued by an MJ — the time to file the notice of appeal is generally 10 days (very short period) unless case involved child support.

In adoption, child neglect and abuse and all other domestic relations matter in which order is issued by an MJ – the notice of appeal MUST be filed within 10 days.

Stay of Proceedings Pending Appeal:

A magistrate judge order may be subject to stay pending appeal to an Associate Judge either by the MJ sua sponte or by applying to the Presiding Judge of the Family Court for issuance of stay.  The stay of an order pending appeal would be scientifically harder if the order is issued by an Associate Judge and may require direct involvement of the Court of Appeals through an expedited review process.

Contents of the Notice of Appeal:

(1) The notice of appeal must specify the party or parties taking the appeal by naming each one in the caption or body of the notice

(2) The notice of appeal must be signed by the individual appellant or by counsel for the appellant. If the appellant is a corporation or other entity, the notice must be signed by counsel.

3) Designate and attached the judgment, order, or part thereof being appealed.   That is, the notice must have the original order appealing from attached and submitted with the notice of appeal.


Experienced litigators do not expect to extract favorable outcomes at the trial level and make the appellate record at trial in order to be able to launch a successful appeal and possibly a reversal.

Refer to our DC Family Lawyer page for more detailed categories of family law and the applicable rules.

Categories: Family Law.