Divorce Granted to Wife of Incarcerated Man Vacated By Georgia Supreme Court after Multiple Appeals
On November 7, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court set aside a trial court decision granting a divorce judgment to the spouse of an incarcerated man. The state high court held there was no evidence the husband was notified of the hearing nor given a copy of the divorce decree, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
This somewhat complicated case has been to the Georgia Supreme Court before. In an earlier appeal of the 2010 divorce decree, the high court granted the appeal of Willie Frank Wright, who claimed that the trial court never provided notice of the decree to him at his place of incarceration. See: Wright v. Young, 297 Ga. 683 (2015). On remand, the trial court scheduled a hearing and Wright filed a motion for an order requiring authorities to transport him to the court for the hearing. The trial court denied that motion, as well as Wright's motion to set aside the divorce decree, for a second time. Wright filed another appeal, asserting that he had not been provided notice of entry of the final judgment and decree. Wright also sought a discretionary appeal of the denial of his request to be present at the hearing.
In the meantime, the trial court entered another order purporting to "dismiss" the action, apparently for Wright's failure to file a Notice of Appeal within ten days as required by the Supreme Court’s order granting the discretionary appeal. Wright then appealed the dismissal order, as well as another application for a discretionary appeal.
The Georgia Supreme Court granted Wright's request for discretionary appeal as to whether the trial court had the authority to "dismiss" a case which had been appealed based on the fact that his Notice of Appeal was prematurely filed. All of Wright's appeals were consolidated by the high court, which again reversed and remanded.
The court first dismissed Wright's appeal of the order denying his motion to be present at the hearing, without comment. The court then found that although premature, Wright's second Notice of Appeal was nonetheless timely and the trial court's order dismissing the case should be vacated.
Finding that the trial court's order after remand made no findings with respect to whether the trial court provided notice of the judgment as required by statute, the order of decree "is reversed and the matter is remanded for further consideration of the Husband's motion to set aside in accordance with this opinion."
The court further held that if on remand the trial court finds the statute requiring the court to give notice to the parties of the divorce decree was not followed, Wright's motion to set aside should be granted. See: Wright v. Wright, Nos. S16A1248 and S16A1250, (S. Ct. GA), November 7, 2016.