Appellate Practice

Good appellate attorneys know the law, but also the development of law and policy in Colorado, the United States Supreme Court, and other states.  The Denver Appellate law attorneys at Willoughby & Associates experience, commitment to teaching and writing, and our specialization make us uniquely qualified to handle domestic relations appeals.

In domestic relations cases, the trial court has a responsibility to determine the facts and then arrive at a decision by applying the law to those facts.  Trial courts have substantial discretion in family law matters; but, there are limits.  A party dissatisfied with the results of a trial court’s decision may appeal.

Whether an appeal makes sense is a complex question.  Although many appeals are filed with the Colorado Court of Appeals every year, very few actually result in a reversal of the trial court decision.  Worse yet, just because the Court of Appeals decides the trial court made an error does not mean the trial court will ultimately change the result.  It just means the trial court must look again at the case.  As such, when considering whether to file an appeal, it is essential that an attorney evaluating a potential appeal look at all information in the trial court case, determine what legal issues exist in the case and which, if any, of those legal issues are appropriate for appellate consideration.

Appellate courts determine whether legal error exists.  Appellate courts do not decide whether the trial court made the right factual decision.  Only when the appellate court determines that the trial court did not have any testimony or evidence sufficient to support a finding of fact will the appellate court consider whether the facts determined by a trial court are erroneous, warranting reversal or remand.

The only items the appellate court are allowed to consider when assessing a challenge to a trial court order or judgment are the pleadings, motions, memoranda, testimony and exhibits that were before the trial judge.  No new documents are allowed, and no additional testimony is permitted.  Appellate courts, then, are not the place for a “re-do” of a case.

Cases where law has been misapplied have potential for success.  Cases where a party believes the trial court got facts wrong do not.


Appeals can be very expensive. The appellate attorney must review everything presented before the trial court. Appellate court briefs can be complex and can require research not undertaken at the trial court level. Additionally, if oral argument is requested and granted, a significant amount of preparation will be necessary.