When a family law court renders a decision, the losing party has the right to file an appeal. Family law appeals in California are notoriously complex legal cases. In some circumstances, the court may even “stay” the original verdict pending the appeal. In this article, our California appeal lawyers explain the most important things you need to know about stays pending appeal and how they impact family law cases. 

What is a Stay Pending Appeal in California?

Under California Rules of Court Rule 3.515, either party in a civil case, including a family law case, has the right to file a motion for a stay. When granted by a court, a motion for a stay pending appeal prevents that court from carrying out its verdict until the appeal is heard. 

To be clear, a stay does not modify the actual terms of the California family law court’s decision in any manner. Instead, it simply changes the order of operations. The appeals process must go before the judgment applies. Without a stay, the opposite is true. A judgment will take immediately—thereby becoming valid before an appeal is heard. 

Two Types of Stays in California Family Law Appeals

In family law cases in California, stays are divided into two broad categories: 

  • Automatic Stay: An automatic stay is a stay that is applied because of a requirement under state or federal law. For example, if one party to divorce files for bankruptcy during the proceedings. They are entitled to an automatic stay. Any property-related judgment rendered can be enforced until the bankruptcy-related stay is lifted.  
  • Discretionary Stay: A discretionary stay is a stay that a judge decided to apply, given the specific circumstances of the case. A discretionary stay is not required by any specific state or federal statute. California courts must “balance equities” when determining if a discretionary stay is appropriate in any given family law case. 

What a Stay Pending Appeal Means for Property Division, Child Custody, and Alimony

Whether you are locked in a property division case, alimony case, or child custody dispute, the overall impact of a stay pending appeal is the same: The trial court’s decision cannot take immediate effect if it is stayed pending appeal. When a lower court’s family law decision is stayed by an appeals court, it will be put on “pause” until there is a chance for the appeal to be heard. In California, an appeals court will only stay a lower court’s decision if the party seeking the pause has a reasonable chance of succeeding on the merits and there is a risk of irreparable harm. 

Smart, Experienced California Family Appellate Lawyer 

At The Appellate Law Firm, our California family appeal attorneys are standing by, ready to protect your rights. If you have any questions about stays pending appeals in family law cases, we are here to help. Our law firm has experience representing clients in complex family law appeals. Contact us today to arrange a fully private initial consultation. From our Los Angeles law office, we provide representation in family appeals throughout California.

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