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Borgers v. Borgers - 347 Ga. App. 640, 820 S.E.2d 474 (2018)

Rule:

In a contempt proceeding, the trial court has authority to interpret the meaning of a divorce decree. In such action, the trial court does not have authority to modify a final judgment and divorce decree. 

Facts:

Stefanie Borgers (the “mother”) and Brian Borgers (the “father”) divorced in 2013. The final divorce decree (the “divorce decree”) awarded the parties joint legal custody of their three minor children, but awarded the mother primary physical custody and final decision-making authority regarding the children. In the divorce decree, the court “expressed concern as to whether home-schooling is in the best interests of these children[,]” but did not prohibit the mother from continuing to home-school the children. The trial court granted Brian's petition in 2016 that modified their custody agreement and ordered Stefanie to stop home schooling their child and to enroll the child in a private school. Stefanie appealed.

Issue:

Did the trial court have the authority to modify a final judgment and divorce decree?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court held that the trial court exceeded its authority by entering an order modifying the respective legal rights of the parents, and ordering the mother, who was the final decision maker, to enroll the child in private school rather than home-school the child, in a contempt proceeding because the record was devoid of any evidence showing that the father filed a valid custody modification action under O.C.G.A. § 19-9-23(a).

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