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Fladger v. Fladger

Supreme Court of Georgia

November 3, 2014

FLADGER
v.
FLADGER

Domestic relations. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Lane.

Conner & Conner, Stacie A. Conner, for appellant.

Wall Shafer, Lee Wall O. Shafer, for appellee.

NAHMIAS, Justice. All the Justices concur, except Hunstein, J., who dissents.

OPINION

Nahmias, Justice.

Appellant Kelly Fladger (Father) and appellee Monica Fladger (Mother) were married in September 1994. Their marriage produced two children, who were ages ten and six when Mother filed for divorce in 2011. After a bench trial, the trial court entered an order of divorce on December 13, 2012, and then amended the order on December 5, 2013. In this discretionary appeal granted under OCGA § 5-6-35 and this Court's Rule 34 (4), Father challenges the amount of child support he has been ordered

Page 355

to pay, which was calculated in part using a high-income deviation. We reverse that portion of the divorce order and remand for the trial court to make all of the written findings that the child support statute requires before such a deviation may be applied.

1. The December 13, 2012 divorce order made Mother the custodial parent and said the following regarding child support:

The Mother earns $5,097.35 monthly as a teacher in the Gwinnett County Public Schools. The Father's 2011 income was $639,573.38. He earned approximately $674,000 in 2010. The Father shall pay child support in the amount of $5,052.00 monthly, to commence on January 1, 2013. ...

The child support worksheet filed with the order showed that, based on Father's monthly gross and adjusted income of $54,166, he had a 91.4% share of the parties' total adjusted income.[1] Father's presumptive [296 Ga. 146] child support amount was $3,051.83. This amount represents $2,802.32, or 91.4% of $3,066, the maximum basic child support amount for two children set by OCGA § 19-6-15 (o), plus an upward adjustment of $416.18 and a downward adjustment of $166.67 for expenses that are not at issue here. The trial court then applied a $2,000 upward deviation based on Father's high income.[2] The spaces provided on the worksheet for the factual findings necessary to support a deviation, however, were left blank.[3] The divorce order reserved the issue of attorney fees, so it was not yet a final judgment.

On April 10, 2013, Father filed a motion to amend the divorce order, alleging, among other things, that the high-income deviation was not supported by the evidence and that the trial court failed to make the findings required to support the deviation. On July 10, 2013, the court denied the motion to amend on the ground that it was filed outside the term of court in which the order was rendered, which expired at the end of December 2012. On July 11, 2013, the court entered an order granting attorney fees to Mother. Father then filed a timely motion for new trial and a motion under OCGA § 9-11-60 (d) to set aside the divorce order as well as the order denying his motion to amend the divorce order, repeating, among other things, his claim that the high-income deviation was not supported by the evidence or the required findings. On October 4, 2013, after an evidentiary hearing for which there is no transcript in the record, the trial court denied Father's motions as to all claims except his child support claim, on which the court deferred ruling.[4]

Page 356

[296 Ga. 147] On December 5, 2013, the trial court amended the December 2012 divorce ...


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