In a de novo hearing, the court responds to an appeal from a lower court ruling, and it judges the issues before it without granting any deference to the judgment of the lower court.

De novo hearings are common for family law issues such as:

The stakes are high when courts decide these issues, and many parties seek to appeal the family court’s ruling. Parties are entitled to de novo hearings on appeals unless there is a law that specifically forbids it under the circumstances.


Three types of appeals are available:

  • Direct appeals: These occur in situations where you can automatically file an appeal without seeking the court’s prior permission.
  • Discretionary appeals: You need the higher court’s permission to file a discretionary appeal. Appeals to the Supreme Court of Georgia are discretionary, for example, because the court would be swamped with cases if they allowed automatic appeals.
  • Interlocutory appeals: You file an interlocutory appeal to dispute a court ruling that occurs in the middle of your case. The appeals court will rule on the issue you appeal to it and then send the case back down to the trial court from which you appealed.

Your best chance of winning an appeal of any sort occurs when you have adequate grounds for appeal, such as a mistake of fact, a mistake of law, or an important procedural error. 

The Standard of Review

The “standard of review” is the degree of deference that the appeals court will grant to the original court. For example:

  • Under the “abuse of discretion” standard of review, the appeals court will overturn the trial court’s decision only if the decision is so obviously inappropriate that it constitutes an abuse of the court’s right to interpret the facts or the law. Appeals courts that apply an abuse of discretion standard rarely overrule a trial court. Instead, they defer to the trial court’s discretion
  • Under the “clearly erroneous” standard of review, an appeals court will overrule the trial court only if its ruling is especially incorrect. In other words, “apparently erroneous” is not enough—the appeals court must be certain that the trial court erred.
  • Under the de novo standard of review, as described above, the appeals court will take a fresh look at the evidence. It reserves the right to ignore the trial court’s decision for any reason. If you are appealing a trial court decision, your chances of winning are best if the court applies a “de novo” standard to your appeal.

The standard of review is an absolutely critical element of any appeal.

De Novo Trials

In a de novo trial, the appeals court kicks the case back to the trial level, and the trial court retries the case from scratch. The parties will present evidence and call witnesses all over again in most cases.

De Novo Appeals

In a de novo appeal, the appeals court does not retry the case. They work with the recorded testimony, for example, of witnesses who testified in the original trial, without calling these witnesses to testify again. Likewise, they make their decision based on evidence that was presented in the original trial.  

Nevertheless, the appeals court grants no deference to the trial court’s interpretation of this testimony and evidence. Typically, you cannot call new witnesses or present new evidence in a de novo appeal. 

Get a Lawyer for an Appeal

Appeals are difficult to win even if you are lucky enough to secure it on de novo review. You definitely don’t want to be distracted by procedural obstacles that an experienced family law attorney could easily surmount. You will also need an attorney to prepare the strongest possible appeal documentation. Schedule a free initial consultation as soon as you can to get the process started.

Contact the Family Law Lawyers at Crystal Wright Law To Get Legal Assistance Today

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact page. You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.