Greene v. Greene, A10A1463-A10A1464
*All courts mentioned are at the state level.
- These appeals arose from Wife’s motion for contempt against Husband for violating the terms of their Settlement Agreement.
- Husband’s appeal (A10A1463) concerned two related enumerations of error.
- First, Husband argued that the trial court erred when it found him in contempt of a provision in the Settlement Agreement that gave Wife final decision making authority on religious matters. He claimed that the court’s ruling had restricted his freedom to share his religious beliefs with his child and was overly broad.
- The parties have one daughter. Wife is Jewish and Husband is Christian.
- Husband acknowledged that he had agreed that the child would be raised in the Jewish faith. However, Husband admitted to, among other things, taking the child to numerous Christian churches, reading the Bible to the child, and teaching the child about the Christian faith. Husband also admitted to having referred to Wife’s parents by numbers, but denied he was referring to the Holocaust.
- The Court of Appeals held that the Settlement Agreement was clear, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the Husband in contempt based on the actions to which he testified. The court also noted that even in the absence of an agreement, the custodial parent has the authority to determine religious training.
- In Husband’s second enumeration of error, he argued that the trial court’s order must be reversed because the provisions under which he could purge himself of the contempt were stated in the negative, which rendered them unclear and indefinite.
- The Court of Appeals held that his argument lacked merit, as the directions to Husband were sufficiently clear and certain.
- Wife appealed (A10A1464) on the ground that the trial court erred when it failed to find Husband in willful contempt for violating a provision in the Settlement Agreement that ordered that the parties be restrained and enjoined from harassing or harming the child or each other, and ordered that neither party attempt to alienate the child’s natural affection for the other party.
- Wife argued that Husband’s conduct was such that the trial court was required to hold Husband in willful contempt.
- The Court of Appeals stated that trial courts have broad discretion in ruling on a motion for contempt, and held that there was no abuse of discretion. In particular, the Court of Appeals noted the thorough trial court order showing that the trial court considered Husband’s deplorable conduct, but believed his testimony that he was remorseful, resulting in the trial court’s conclusion that he did not intent to willfully violate the Settlement Agreement.
- Charla E. Stawser for Husband
- Alan Mullinax for Wife
- Tamela L. Adkins for Wife
Gwinnett Superior Court; Judge Robert D. Walker