GA Supreme Court Reverses Trial Court’s Contempt of and Modification to Divorce Decree

In Morgan v. Morgan, the parties’ final divorce decree awarded the Wife 50% of the marital portion of the Husband’s military retirement benefits as required by the Navy.  The parties later discovered the Navy does not require a division of military benefits to former spouses.  However, the Wife submitted an Agreed Domestic Relations Order (ADRO) requesting 50% of the designated portion of the retirement account.  The Husband refused to sign it and the trial court held him in contempt.  In addition to holding the Husband in contempt, the trial court modified the terms of the divorce decree to where the Wife’s share of the military retirement benefits included coverage under the Department of Defense Survivor Benefit Plan.

On January 10, 2011, Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled that a party cannot be held in contempt for violation of a court order if the order does not provide definite terms of the duties imposed upon the party.  Additionally, the Supreme Court stated that the trial court lacked the authority to modify the terms of a divorce decree during a contempt proceeding.  Read the Supreme Court opinion here.

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