Family law appeals have several unique characteristics that are important for parties to understand before pursuing an appeal. This blog summarizes some of the most noteworthy features of family law appeals.

Appellate Mediation Program

Most family law cases in Minnesota are required to go through the appellate mediation program. This means that after an appeal is filed, the Court of Appeals will direct that the parties mediate the matter before briefing occurs. If the case settles, the appeal will be dismissed. If it does not settle, briefing will continue as in any other appeal.

Determining Whether an Order is Appealable

Rule 103.03 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure lists the types of orders that are appealable. The list includes an order granting or denying modification of custody, visitation, maintenance or child support. But it can still be difficult to determine whether a particular order is appealable, particularly when the court issues orders styled as “temporary” that nevertheless have significant consequences. It is therefore important to consult with an appellate attorney to determine whether any particular family law order might be appealable.

Timing Considerations

Family law appeals often involve unique timing concerns not present in other areas of law. An appeal can take up to a year from the time the appeal is filed until a decision from the Court of Appeals is received. Therefore, certain issues, such as the custody of a 17-year-old child or the choice of school for a child who will soon graduate, may be rendered moot before an appeal can be completed. In addition, in a marital dissolution there may be times when the parties’ desire to end all interaction with each other sooner rather than later weighs against the potential benefits of a lengthy appeal.

Remand is Likely to the Same Judge

Parties should also be aware that if the appellate court reverses the trial court’s decision and remands the case to the trial court for further proceedings, the case will return to the same trial judge who made the original decision. Some parties worry that appealing a trial judge’s decision may irritate the judge. Although that trial judge will now have the benefit of the appellate court’s decision to guide its analysis of the issues, it is sometimes possible for the judge to correct their analysis but reach the same result as their original decision. It is important to discuss with an attorney the strategic implications of a possible appeal when a remand to the original judge is expected.


For more information, please contact Michelle Kuhl.