Minnesota's Family Law Blog

What Happens During A Family Law Appeal

gavel and stack of papers
gavel and stack of papers

UPDATED: Feb 2024

I’ve found that an appeal in divorce and custody cases is very frequently misunderstood.

This is short post to help you understand what actually happens during a Minnesota Family Law Appeal. (Note this is a new updated post, 5 years I discussed appeals, which you can read if you’d like).

What Can Be Appealed?

First and foremost, you need to understand what can and cannot be appealed.  Only final orders can generally be appealed.  A final order is just that, the final order in a case. You can think of it as the last order in your case.  This means if there is a temporary relief order in place you can’t appeal that until the end of the case.  The reason is pretty simple, the Court of Appeals doesn’t want to have to hear arguments over and over on the same case.

Timeline To Appeal

Except for child protection and termination cases which have very, very short timelines to appeal (usually 20 days) most other civil cases, of which custody and divorces cases are part, have 60 days to appeal.  This 60 days is normally calculated from the filing of the notice of entry of the order.  One important thing to keep in mind is that it is a hard 60 days, this means there is really nothing that can be done on day 61.  The court loses jurisdiction and the Minnesota Court of Appeals will not hear the case.

NOTE:  If you are thinking of appealing your case, you can’t wait to call a family law attorney on day 59, heck you wait until even day 30 you may have a hard time finding a lawyer.  Most of us don’t like short deadlines and that makes us nervous, when we get nervous we charge more!

The Briefs

I am always a bit surprised when I talk to folks about appealing and I talk about the costs associated.  The short version is that it is very expensive to appeal.  Part of the reason is you need to order and pay for transcripts (often $500 per day of trail) the filing fee is $500 as well as a $500 cost bond.  Those costs are just the beginning because the real costs are the legal work that goes into drafting the briefs.

An appellate brief is the most technical document family lawyers usually draft.  The Minnesota Appellate Rules are very precise in the font, size, paging etc. Unlike trial briefs or proposed orders, Appellate briefs focus on very specific errors which the lower court made.  The way it’s argued is by looking at other cases that came before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.  It’s slow, plodding and very meticulous work, which means it will be expensive.

Mandatory Appellate Mediation

A few years ago a new rule was implemented which required all family law cases to attempt appellate mediation.  This was done as a last gasp to avoid litigation during the appellate process.  I will admit that I was very against this when it first came out, my thought was that if you are going to appeal the client will have already thought long and hard about accepting a lesser result.  I was wrong!  The appellate mediation process is generally considered to be very successful and I’ve seen about ½ of my appellate cases settle because of this process (which is a good thing!).

Oral Arguments

If you can’t settle the appeal in mediation then you will probably go and argue the case.  Arguments at the Court of Appeals are very different than district court.  Each person gets 15 minutes to argue and no new evidence is presented, it is very dry and often times well over the head of a client who attends.


An order is will be submitted about 90 days later and that will either remand or send the case back to the district court or uphold the previous order.

There you go, a look at what happens if you decide to appeal your family court decision in Minnesota.

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com may contain knowledgeable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota.

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Comments 12
  1. It is interesting that 60 days is a time you have to appeal and there isn’t anything to do to on day 61. My wife’s friend is going through a divorce right now and they are working with a lawyer for the kids. If were going through a divorce, we’d consider hiring a family lawyer that has experience working in situations similar to whatever we were in.

  2. I like that you said that if you can’t come with a solution with your ex about parent visitation, you can have a judge help you with the process and agreements. I’m going to let my friend know about finding a family lawyer to help him fix his family problems. Thank you for sharing this information with me.

  3. I like how you included that a few years ago a new rule was implemented which required all family law cases to attempt appellate mediation. I got a DUI and didn’t know where to start with getting a lawyer. I will keep this in mind when I start searching for a lawyer.

  4. When an appeal has been made does this put a halt to the conditions imposed by the divorce settlement? I.e. If the party making the appeal has been court ordered to make payments is the requirement to make payments halted during the appeal, also if said payments are not being made what legal recourse is available to the party receiving the payments?

  5. I love what you said about the appellate mediation process and how it is considered to be fairly successful on a regular basis. I believe that working with a reliable divorce lawyer is essential in order to maintain an objective point of view during a sensitive time. My cousin is considering divorce as a solution to his rough relationship, so I’ll suggest he contact a law firm that has a reputation of helpfulness in his area.

  6. Thanks for explaining how divorce cases usually have 60 days to appeal. My sister is wanting to get a divorce, but she is a very indecisive person. I think a lawyer and all of that time will help her make a decision in what to do for her case much better than if she tried to go at it alone.

  7. If I had to go to court for a family law issue, I would for sure want a lawyer to help me out. That way if there was an appeal, they would be able to help me out with that. I don’t know anything about the law regarding that.

    1. Great question. The appeal is heard by the Court of Appeal (3 totally different judges) but if it has to be remanded it will be sent back to the same family court judge who originally heard the case.

  8. Thanks for explaining how lawyers are able to draft appellate briefs which focus on errors that the lower court might have made during your trial. If I ever get divorced, I would want to get my fair share of the asset that I have built. Should I feel that I am not getting what I deserve, I will definitely want a lawyer that can help me come up with an appellate brief that can help turn over the court’s decision.

  9. It is helpful to know beforehand that there are oral arguments that go on. Making sure that you are being well-represented during these that are different from appeals. My cousin would love this insight since she is working through family law troubles.

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