When the Family Court issues a final order, litigants may appeal that order to the Delaware Supreme Court within 30 days. Generally, to raise an issue on appeal, a party must have fairly presented that issue to the Family Court. An important consideration is the standard of review, that is, what type of scrutiny the Delaware Supreme Court will employ in evaluating the questions presented on appeal. Questions of fact, such as whether the Family Court correctly understood the evidence, will generally be reviewed under a clearly erroneous standard of review. That is, if the appealing party cannot show that the Family Court’s understanding of the record was not clearly wrong, its decision will be upheld. Similarly, the Supreme Court will generally not disturb findings of credibility, or the weight given to the evidence presented. If the question appealed involves an exercise of discretion, such as the percentage division of marital property in a divorce matter, the standard of review is whether the Family Court abused its discretion. This generally means that if the exercise of discretion is within the broad range of reasonableness, the Family Court’s decision will be upheld. The most favorable standard of review is called “de novo” review. This means that the Supreme Court will look at the question anew, without any deference to the Family Court’s order. This standard of review is employed to questions of law. Generally, the appeals with the best prospect of success involve questions of law.
If you have a question about whether an appeal is in your best interests, please contact Patrick Boyer at 302-654-4454 or [email protected]