Custody. Newton Superior Court. Before Judge Benton.
Turner & Lawrence, Kenneth G. Lawrence, for appellant.
Stephen McGinnis, pro se.
Diane B. McGinnis, pro se.
Lindsey Jewell appeals from a final order entered by the superior court awarding joint legal custody of her daughter, C. M., to Jewell and to the child's paternal grandparents, Stephen and Diane McGinnis, with primary physical custody to the grandparents. The mother asserts, inter alia, that the trial court erred in failing to produce findings of fact and conclusions of law in its order awarding custody, that it failed to incorporate a permanent parenting plan into its final custody decision, that it improperly consolidated two separate cases, and that it considered inadmissible evidence when coming to its conclusion. For the following reasons, we vacate and remand the case with direction.
The facts are as follows. The mother and father divorced on April 29, 2013. The divorce and custody agreement awarded joint legal custody of C. M. to the father and mother. The father was granted physical custody, and the mother was granted visitation rights.
On April 24, 2014, the mother filed a complaint in the Superior Court of Newton County against the father seeking a temporary and permanent modification of the primary physical custody of C. M. due [333 Ga.App. 109] to the father's incarceration (the " Parent Custody action" ). On the same day, the paternal grandparents filed an emergency motion for custody (the " Third-Party Custody action" ). An emergency hearing was held on April 24, 2014, at which the trial court required the attendance of the paternal grandparents and the mother. Although the mother was not served with the Third-Party Custody action until June, 2, 2014, there is nothing in the record to indicate that the mother objected to proceeding with both actions at the temporary hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court entered an emergency order of custody, granting temporary custody of C. M. to the paternal grandparents until the end of the school year, with custody alternating between the mother and the grandparents on a weekly basis thereafter. The father was barred from contact with the child.
On June 2, 2014, the mother and the paternal grandparents appeared for a temporary hearing in the Third-Party Custody action. The trial court entered a temporary order in the Third-Party Custody action which continued the same custodial arrangement set forth after the emergency motion hearing in the Parent Custody action. The order further stated that it was joining the Parent Custody action and the Third-Party Custody action together under one action.
The mother and the paternal grandparents appeared on July 14, 2014, for a final hearing. At the hearing, the mother's counsel stated that the cases had not been properly merged and that no motion for intervention had been filed. In response, the trial court initially stated that it was merging the two cases " on its own motion" for the purposes of judicial economy. However, when the issue of proper venue was raised, the trial court reconsidered the merger and instead granted the paternal grandparents' motion to intervene in the Parent Custody action. The mother did not object. After the hearing, the trial court issued a final order granting joint legal custody of the child to the mother and the paternal grandparents, with primary physical custody to the paternal grandparents. The mother appeals from this order.
1. The mother contends that the trial court erred by improperly consolidating the Parent Custody action and the Third-Party Custody action. However, although the mother's counsel brought to the trial court's attention that the cases had not been properly consolidated, counsel did not object once the trial court orally consolidated [333 Ga.App. 110] them " on its own motion" or when it later retracted that ruling and allowed the paternal grandparents to intervene in the Parent Custody action. Accordingly, this enumeration has been waived. See Beloate v. Peden, 328 Ga.App. 64, 68 (2) (761 S.E.2d 487) (2014).
2. The mother asserts that the trial court's decision was in error because it appears that the trial court improperly considered evidence presented during the emergency motion hearing ...