A child support modification (or child custody modification, or visitation modification) and a contempt of court action can now be filed together in the same petition, even if the Defendant resides in a county other than the county of the original divorce decree.  The Supreme Court of Georgia on March 4, 2013, in the case known as Ford v. Hanna, announced this rule.  Formerly, Georgia law was that the child custody, child support, or visitation modification had to be brought in the county of the Defendant’s current residence, and the contempt of court action had to be brought in the county of the original divorce decree.  This frequently resulted in the anomaly (and expense) of two cases pending in different counties at the same time.

A child support or child custody modification action has traditionally been filed in the county of the current residence of the Defendant.  Contempt of court actions have been filed in the county that granted the original divorce, the theory being that the Court that entered the original order was the only court that had jurisdiction to decide whether to hold a party in contempt for failure to comply.

For some years, there has been an exception to the normal rule, permitting a Defendant to file a “counterclaim” for contempt along with the answer to a modification action.  The Ford v. Hanna case announces the Supreme Court’s conclusion that the Petitioner can now combine a modification action and a contempt action together in the same Petition.  The proper county for filing the action is the county of the Defendant’s residence, in order that the Court will have personal jurisdiction over the Defendant.

Thus, for example, if a parent needs to petition the Court to modify custody and change the visitation schedule, and the Defendant also has failed to abide by the Court’s original order to pay child support or medical expenses, both the modification and contempt actions can be combined in a single action filed by Petitioner in the Defendant’s county of residence.

Hindson & Melton LLC can assist you in evaluating your Georgia child custody, child support, and modification questions.  We will help you formulate a course of action appropriate to your situation.  Our offices are convenient to metro north Atlanta and Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Alpharetta, and Marietta, and we accept cases throughout the extended metro Atlanta area.

© Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC, March 11, 2013