You’ve received a final order from the Juvenile & Domestic Relations district court, but you’re unhappy with what it says. What should your next step be?
You have two options. First, you can choose to live with the order for a while. If later you decide that it isn’t working, you can file a Motion to Amend with the same J&DR court. To change the order, you must show the judge there has been a material change in circumstances since the last order. To say that you aren’t happy with the order isn’t good enough: there must be something different.
Your other option is to appeal the order to the next highest court, which is the circuit court. In the circuit court, you essentially get a do-over. All of the same standards and rules from the J&DR court still apply; you just get a different judge.
In Virginia, both parties have an absolute right to appeal any final order of a J&DR court. You must note your appeal to the clerk’s office within 10 days from the date the final order was signed by the judge. If you miss the deadline, you’re stuck with option number one. You have to appeal within 10 calendar days, no exceptions.
If you were ordered to pay child support and you are appealing the order of support, it is likely that you will have to pay an appeal bond. It is not enough to just note your appeal within 10 days. If you have an outstanding amount of support owed (called “arrears”), you will need to pay the full amount within 30 days for your appeal to be effective. Even if you are not in arrears on your support, some courts will still require you to post an appeal bond. The bond amount cannot be more than 3 months of your current support obligation. This amount must also be paid within 30 days. You should always ask the court to set an appeal bond on any support case. Without it, the appeal may be invalid and the circuit court won’t be able to hear your case, leaving you stuck with the J&DR court order.
If you are the one receiving support and you want to appeal, there is no bond required. However, you are still required to note the appeal within the 10 days.
Once you’ve fulfilled all the requirements of appealing your case to the circuit court, you’ll get a trial date and have the chance to put on your case again. However, the one thing you absolutely must remember is this: the order from the J&DR court is still valid and you have to follow it until the new judge says differently.
Filing your appeal to the circuit court does not make the order of the J&DR court go away. You are still subject to that court order and it must be followed or you could face consequences, including jail time. The order is in place until it is changed by the circuit court judge. Meaning, you must follow the visitation schedule and stay current on the monthly support payments until another judge tells you differently.
Here at Bowen Ten Long & Bal, PC, we have experience in all stages of custody, visitation, and support litigation, both in J&DR and circuit court. We are happy to meet with you to answer any questions and discuss your options.