DILLARD, C. J., RAY, P. J., and SELF, J.
Dillard, Chief Judge.
custody dispute, Ashley David Leone appeals from the trial
court's denial of his motion for new trial, contending
that the court erred in denying his motion without holding a
hearing. For the reasons set forth infra, we reverse
the trial court's denial of Leone's motion for new
trial and remand the case for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.
and Melissa Griffin have one child, born in February 2014.
Shortly after the child's birth, Leone filed a petition
for legitimation. Following a lengthy hearing, on August 26,
2015, the trial court issued a final order on legitimation
and temporary order on child custody and support, granting
Leone's petition for legitimation, granting him
visitation, and ordering him to pay child support.
September 2015, Leone filed a timely motion for new trial or,
in the alternative, motion for reconsideration, in which he
asked the court to modify his child-support obligation.
Thereafter, on May 5, 2016, without acknowledging Leone's
September 2015 motion, the trial court issued a final order
on custody and visitation, granting Griffin primary physical
custody and incorporating the visitation schedule from the
parties' parenting plan. In June 2016, Leone filed
another timely motion for new trial or, in the alternative,
motion for reconsideration, in which he requested that the
trial court modify its custody order to award him primary
physical custody or joint physical custody, modify his
child-support obligation, clarify the parenting plan, and
award him attorney fees. Leone specifically asked that the
trial court "hold a hearing" on his motion for new
trial and "consider witness testimony and documentary
evidence on these issues[.]"
January 6, 2017, without holding a hearing, the trial court
ordered that Leone's child-support obligation be
modified, denied his request for attorney fees, and denied
his motion for new trial. Leone filed a timely application
for discretionary review, which this Court granted. This
contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for
new trial without holding a hearing. Griffin concedes that
the trial court's order denying Leone's motion for
new trial must be reversed, and we agree.
Supreme Court has made clear, "Uniform Superior Court
Rule 6.3 requires a trial court to hold an oral hearing on
all motions for new trial in civil cases, unless otherwise
specifically ordered by the court." And if the trial
court denies a motion for new trial "without issuing an
order excepting the motion from this procedural requirement
and without holding the mandatory hearing, the error will not
be deemed harmless on appeal[.]" Indeed, to hold otherwise
would "not encourage adherence to the Uniform Rules and
would render the mandated hearing a hollow
the trial court did not issue an order excepting Leone's
June 2016 motion from this procedural requirement.
Nevertheless, the trial court denied the motion without
holding the mandatory hearing. Thus, the trial court erred in
denying Leone's motion for new trial. Accordingly, we
reverse the portion of the trial court's January 6, 2017
order denying Leone's motion for new trial and remand the
case with direction that the court comply with Uniform
Superior Court Rule 6.3 before ruling on the
reversed and case remanded.
P. J. and Self, J., concur.
Brown v. Brown, 294 Ga. 475,
476 (754 S.E.2d 362) (2014) (citation omitted); Kuriatnyk
v. Kuriatnyk, 286 Ga. 589, 592 (2) (690 S.E.2d 397)
(2010) (noting that "a motion for new trial 'shall
be decided' after an 'oral hearing'");
see also Uniform Superior Court Rule 6.3
("Unless otherwise ordered by the court, all motions in
civil actions, including those for summary judgment, shall be
decided by the court without oral hearing, ...