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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
SLATER v. SLATER.
20941.
Divorce, etc. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Alverson. April 1, 1960.
DUCKWORTH, Chief Justice.
The Juvenile Court of Fulton County, having acquired jurisdiction of these minor children, retains the same until a final disposition of the cause, and the superior court, having voluntarily transferred the case to the juvenile court and entered a final judgment in the divorce and alimony case, was wholly without jurisdiction to enter any other order therein, and the court erred in overruling the demurrers to, and refusing to dismiss, the petition as amended.
This case arose out of a suit for divorce, alimony, and custody of children. By order of Judge Alverson of the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, the question of temporary and permanent custody of the minor children was transferred to the Juvenile Court of Fulton County for investigation and final determination. Thereafter, the juvenile court took custody of the minor children and temporarily placed them with the paternal grandparents subject to the supervision and direction of an officer of the juvenile court and subject to future placement whenever it appears to the best interest and welfare of the children. That court also stated in its order that the custody by the court would be "until such time as either of the said parents can establish a fit and suitable home for said children and proves to the court that they are able to assume the parental responsibility of properly rearing the said children." This same order found both parents unsuitable to care for the children, due to their lack of interest in assuming their parental responsibilities and their neglect in meeting the actual care and needs of said children. Exceptions were filed to these orders by the mother, and in Slater v. Slater, 215 Ga. 161 (109 S. E. 2d 521), these judgments were affirmed, thus establishing the law of the case with custody of the children in the juvenile court, pending a review by that, court in 12 months, or whenever it appears to the best interest and future welfare of the children.
Thereafter, in the remaining case for divorce and alimony, a final determination was reached and a decree entered on July 14, 1959, granting a divorce, but denying the prayers for attorney"s fees and alimony. This final order proceeded to outline the transfer of the custody feature to the juvenile court, and further stated that by agreement of the parties in open court "jurisdiction of this court is retained and preserved to pass such orders with respect to said temporary and permanent custody at a later date as shall be either necessary or proper." Later, the mother filed a petition in the same case for permanent custody, removal of the matter of custody from the further consideration of the juvenile court under the final order by the superior court, for process, rule nisi, and such other relief as may be just and proper. This petition was presented to Judge Alverson and specifically asked that he hear and decide the issues therein since he originally had ordered the transfer of the custody feature to the juvenile court. A rule nisi issued, and the order of the court stated that it had retained jurisdiction under its final order and sought to withdraw the case from the juvenile court, ordering said court to transmit the entire record back to that court. To this petition the father and paternal grandparents filed their demurrers and renewed the same after amendment. A motion was also made by the respondents, objecting to the alleged violation of the rules of the Fulton Superior Court, and specifically asked that the case be assigned to the Domestic Relations Division rather than to permit the petitioner to choose the judge she wanted to hear said case, when in fact the only contact Judge Alverson had had prior thereto was to refer the custody question to the juvenile court. This motion was denied. After a hearing on the demurrers, certain demurrers were sustained and others overruled. The exceptions are to this judgment and the denial of the motion to refer the case to the Domestic Relations Division.
We find it unnecessary to discuss the decree entered in the divorce case, the attempt therein to retain jurisdiction, the consent of the parties thereto, and the voluminous citations of authorities touching those questions, for, in virtue of the authority therefor found in Georgia Laws 1951, pp. 291, 297; Georgia Laws 1953, Nov. Sess., pp. 87, 89; and Georgia Laws 1956, p. 603 (Code, Ann., 24-2408), Judge Alverson issued an order in this case, dated November 14, 1958, which provided in part that "the question of temporary and permanent custody and support of said minor children be and is hereby referred to the Juvenile Court for investigation and final determination." (Italics ours.) Pursuant to this order, the Juvenile Court of Fulton County on January 22, 1959, entered an order requiring the parents to contribute to the support of the children, taking custody of the children, and providing that the matter be reviewed by this court in 12 months, and reserving the right to make such further placement as the court deems wise. This judgment was affirmed in Slater v. Slater, 215 Ga. 161 (109 S. E. 2d 521). Now it is sought by the present proceedings to circumvent the judgments of both the Juvenile Court and the Supreme Court by having the judge, who transferred the matter as above shown, to usurp the jurisdiction he voluntarily conferred upon that court and by flat retake jurisdiction after final decree in the divorce case. "A court, having obtained jurisdiction, retains it until the final disposition of the cause." 21 C. J. S. 147, 94. If the Juvenile Court is made to perform its work under the constant threat that whatever it is doing in a case, where it had been given full jurisdiction, it may without notice be abruptly stopped by an order of a superior court judge taking jurisdiction, its efficiency and dignity would be seriously impaired. We know of no law that authorizes a superior court judge to issue such an order or to otherwise interfere with the Juvenile Court in such a case, and counsel have cited no such law.
While the Superior Court could have retained the jurisdiction to award custody of the minors which it had in virtue of the divorce case, yet when by proper order it vested the Juvenile Court with jurisdiction of the custody case, the Juvenile Court thereby and thereupon acquired jurisdiction, which was as full and complete and exclusive as the Superior Court had before such order. It is that order, and not the divorce decree, that took away from the Superior Court jurisdiction of the custody case. It had no jurisdiction thereof to retain in the divorce decree, and the attempt to do so is a mere nullity.
Therefore, the court being clearly without jurisdiction, it was error to overrule the demurrer and refuse to dismiss the amended petition. This ruling makes it unnecessary to review any other ruling made by the lower court.
Judgment reversed. All the Justices concur.
Wilson Brooks, Osgood O. Williams, contra.
Houston White, Beryl H. Weiner, for plaintiff in error.
ARGUED JUNE 14, 1960 -- DECIDED JULY 7, 1960 -- MOTION FOR REHEARING DISMISSED JULY 19, 1960.
Saturday May 23 00:22 EDT


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