Montana Divorce or Child Custody AppealMarybeth Sampsel
Montana’s Constituion allows for direct appeals from Distrt Court judgments or orders (whether the case is civil or criminal), directly to the Montana Supreme Court. Unlike many other states, Montana does not have an intermediate appellate court. Instead, cases go directly from District Court to the state Supreme Court.
The party that initiates an appeal is called the “Appellant.” The party responding is called the “Appellee” or “Respondent.” Appellate is a very different animal than district court. Appellate procedure has its own set of rules, separate from the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure. The appellate rules are called the Rules of Appellate Procedure and can be found in Title 25, Chapter 21 of the Montana Code.
The Montana Supreme Court is located in Helena, MT. This means that any documents filed in your appeal are filed in Helena and any oral argument would take place in Helena (except in a few very limited circumstances). Oral argument does not happen in all cases. In fact, many appeals never require an appearance in person at the Montana Supreme Court. The great thing about that is Montana litigants have a much larger pool of attorneys to choose from. You could easily hire an attorney at the other end of the state to handle an appeal. All the documents go to the place regardless ofwhere you live!
If you are appealing a family law case from a Montana District Court to the Montana Supreme Court, you will likely have to head back to mediation. Under Rule 7 of the Montana Rules of Appellate Procedure, domestic relations (divorce/parenting/child support/maintenance) cases are submitted to mandatory appellate alternative dispute resolution (i.e. mediation).
Because appellate procedure can be very different from regular district court rules, many litigants choose to use a different attorney for appellate work than for district court/trial work. It can often be beneficial to have a fresh set of eyes look at your case or prepare it for appeal. Most importantly, you want to be sure to utilize someone with appellate exprience and with experience in research and brief writing.