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Norman v. Norman

Court of Appeals of Georgia

November 7, 2014

NORMAN
v.
NORMAN

Contempt. Colquitt Superior Court. Before Judge Tunison.

Dodd & Burnham, W. Michael Burnham II, for appellant.

William C. McCalley, for appellee.

DILLARD, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Miller, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 678

Dillard, Judge.

Darby Norman (" Darby" ) appeals the trial court's order finding her in contempt of a settlement agreement that she entered into with her ex-husband, Toby Norman (" Toby" ), as part of the parties' divorce decree, and denying her motion to strike the overnight-guest provision in that agreement. She contends on appeal that the trial court erred by (1) enforcing the overnight-guest provision when it violates public policy, and (2) misinterpreting binding precedent. For the reasons set forth infra, we affirm.

The record reflects that the Normans divorced in February 2013, and that a settlement agreement entered into by the parties in January 2013 was thereafter incorporated into their final judgment and decree of divorce. The settlement agreement awarded the parties' joint legal custody and Darby primary physical custody of the Normans' [329 Ga.App. 503] two minor daughters, and included, in relevant part, the following provision:

When the minor children of the parties hereto are in either of the party's physical custody, neither party shall allow a non-relative adult person of the opposite gender to remain overnight in the same house, apartment, or other place being occupied by that party and the minor children, provided, however, this restriction shall not apply to an overnight guest of the minor children.

On March 28, 2013 (only one month after entry of the divorce decree), Toby filed a complaint for contempt against his ex-wife, alleging that Darby had repeatedly violated this provision by allowing her boyfriend to stay in her home overnight while she was in physical custody of the children. In response, Darby filed a motion to strike the provision from the decree, arguing that the provision was " overly broad, overly burdensome, and unenforceable under the circumstances."

Following a hearing at which neither party testified, but after which the trial court considered deposition testimony filed by the parties, the trial court determined that Darby had admitted to violating the overnight-guest provision and that the violation of this provision by either party " would be harmful to the minor children's emotional well-being." In reaching its conclusion, the trial court noted that Darby understood and agreed to inclusion of the provision in the settlement agreement with the advice of counsel, and that at least one of the parties' daughters was aware of the provision and that her mother was in violation of it by engaging in prohibited behavior, which the trial court determined was knowledge " detrimental to the children's emotional well-being." [1] Accordingly, the trial

Page 679

court denied Darby's motion to strike the provision, determining that the provision was " narrowly-drawn, rationally related to the harm it seeks to protect, and in the best interests of the children in this case." Further, [329 Ga.App. 504] the trial court granted Toby's motion for contempt. This appeal by Darby follows.

Darby contends that the trial court erred in enforcing the overnight-guest provision because it violates public policy and because the court ...


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