Lower courts are granted considerable discretion in family law matters. In most situations, the lower court will only be overturned if the decision was blatantly wrong or erroneous. That does not mean, however, that defending an appeal is easy or something you should do without the help of an experienced attorney.
Changing the result of the lower court could end up costing thousands of dollars in both attorneys’ fees and property distributions granted in a divorce proceeding. Just because someone was successful at the lower court level does not mean one will prevail on appeal, and an attorney is a valuable asset.
Case Example: Kaprov v. Stalinsky
In Kaprov v. Stalinsky, Yonatan Levoritz defended an appeal based on a marital property dispute. In that case, the wife, Ms. Kaprov, initiated a divorce and asked the court to impose a constructive trust on a shared Florida apartment. The apartment was in her husband’s father’s name, but the couple used it for vacations for several years. When the couple began experiencing marital difficulties, her father-in-law no longer permitted her access to the apartment. He also denied her any proceeds from the apartment.
She argued that the she and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Mr. Stalinsky, were the true owners of the property and that her father-in-law only held the property in his name for tax purposes. She noted that the property was acquired with marital funds and that she and her ex-husband used marital funds for renovations. However, Mr. Stalinsky insisted that she had no legal interest in the property.
The plaintiff argued that her father-in-law would be unjustly enriched if allowed to keep the apartment outside of the marital assets. She asked that her father-in-law deed the interest in the apartment to her and Mr. Stalinsky so that it could be divided in the divorce proceedings.
The lower court found that there should be a constructive trust. It concluded that the Mr. Stalinsky’s father was merely holding the property for the couple. The lower court determined that it would be unfair to allow the father to retain the property with no consideration for Ms. Kaprov’s interest.
On appeal, Mr. Stalinsky argued that the lower court made its decision based on testimony provided by Ms. Kaprov and her friend and that neither of these two were credible witnesses. However, the lower court has considerable discretion in credibility matters, and the appeals court will rarely disturb these decisions. The Appellate Division Second Department upheld the lower court’s decision in its entirety. The wife was also granted 70 percent of the martial estate.
Getting Legal Help with a Family Law Appeal in New York
Even when you have been successful in the lower court, the matter is often not concluded. Each party has a right to appeal an adverse decision, and they often do. Find out more about defending appeals in New York by calling Yonatan Levoritz at 718-942-4004 today.