What Is a De Novo Hearing?

Hossein Berenji, Aug 03, 2022

De novo hearings are used in family court appeals and child support cases heard by a county child support commission. The Latin term “de novo” means “from the new.” It refers to a hearing in which another court or judge decides a case on the facts without deferring to the other court’s decision.

De novo hearings occur in appeals. Most appeals do not involve retrying a case. Therefore, the appellate court does not exercise the same discretion in determining facts as the original trial court.

There are exceptions to this rule. There are a few situations where an appellate court will review the evidence and determine the facts of the case without deference to the trial judge’s decision. However, that does not necessarily mean that you are allowed to present new testimony or evidence during the appeals process.

How Does a De Novo Hearing Apply in Child Support Cases Heard by Commissioners?

Child support commissioners act as temporary judges. These child support cases are filed by the local child support agency under Title IV-D, according to California Family Code §4251. However, the child support agency or any other party can object to the commissioner acting as a temporary judge.

If an objection is filed, the commissioner hears the case and issues a recommended order. Within ten court days, a judge must ratify the recommended order unless there is an error or a party objects. In either case, the judge issues a temporary order and must schedule a de novo hearing within ten court days.

The purpose of the de novo hearing is for the judge to hear the case “anew” as if it had not been tried before a commissioner. First, the judge considers the evidence to determine the facts of the case. The judge then issues an order based on the judge’s findings in the case.

Filing Appeals of a Family Court Ruling – The Use of a De Novo Hearing

If you believe that a trial judge made an error or decided your family court case incorrectly, you can file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal reviews the case to determine if the trial judge made mistakes that affected the case’s outcome.

Generally, you have 60 days from the filing of a Notice of Entry of Judgment to appeal a family court order or judgment. However, the deadlines for filing appeals can vary.

Therefore, it is best to speak with a Los Angeles family law attorney immediately if you want to file an appeal related to divorce, child custody, alimony, or child support.

Standards of Review for the Court of Appeals in Family Law Cases

De novo review is one example of a standard of review, but there are others. The Court of Appeals reviews the trial court’s judgment in every case. However, the standard of review may differ depending on the type of ruling the trial court made.

For example, if the trial judge exercised discretion in deciding the case, the Court of Appeal reviews the trial judge’s decision to determine if the judge abused his discretion. An abuse of discretion could involve issuing an order or decision that is arbitrary or illogical. Abuse of discretion is a more deferential (to the initial court) standard of review than is de novo review.

The Court of Appeal may review the judge’s finding of facts. The review determines whether there was sufficient evidence to support the judge’s finding of fact. This is another standard of review and is also more deferential to the initial court.

Finally, the Court of Appeal uses the de novo standard for reviewing a judge’s ruling when the ruling involves a question of law. The Court of Appeal reviews the issues as if the trial judge never made a ruling. It determines the issue without considering or deferring to the trial judge’s decision.

What Are the Outcomes of a Family Court Appeal?

The Court of Appeals could overturn the judge’s decision in your case. However, it would need to find that the judge abused his discretion, there was insufficient evidence, or the judge misinterpreted the law.

Winning an appeal can be difficult. Even if you have grounds for an appeal, it does not mean you will win.

Instead of appealing a family court order, there could be other options. Depending on your situation, you might be able to:

  • File a motion for a new trial in family court
  • File a motion to vacate or set aside the trial court’s judgment
  • Apply for a renewal
  • File a motion for reconsideration of the judge’s decision

Before doing anything, talk with an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney. A lawyer explains your legal options, including the pros and cons of each option. With that information, you can decide what option gives you the best chance of the outcome you desire.

Contact the family and divorce law firm of Berenji & Associates for help today.

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates today to know how we can assist you.

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