Gloria Dean Smartwood Osborne filed a motion for contempt against her former husband, Allen L. Osborne, for his failure to pay alimony. She sought to join her ex-husband's employer, Richwood & Associates, as a party to the contempt action. We granted the employer's discretionary application to consider whether a party can add a Georgia corporation as a joint tortfeasor in a motion for contempt of a divorce decree. We reverse because the trial court did not have jurisdiction to consider the wife's tort claim against the employer in this contempt action.
A contempt motion to enforce a divorce decree is an independent proceeding that is ancillary to the divorce action. 1
Because a contempt action is not a new civil action, many provisions of the Civil Practice Act do not apply. Thus, a party is limited in the type of claims that may be brought 2
and may not file either a counterclaim or cross-claim. 3
Richwood was not a party to the original divorce action and the wife is not seeking to enforce its compliance with a decree to which it was not a party. Instead, her motion to join Richwood as a defendant alleges that the employer conspired with her former husband to defeat her efforts to enforce the trial court's orders and judgment in the divorce action. Because the filing of a contempt motion is not tantamount to the filing of a complaint, the wife cannot allege a separate count for conspiracy against the husband's employer as part of the contempt action. To bring a third-party conspiracy claim, she must file a new tort action. Therefore, we reverse the trial court's order adding Richwood as a party in this action.
Ballard, Stephenson & Waters, Billy J. Waters, for appellee.