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socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
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Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I am needing clarification on this paragraph within my

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I am needing clarification on this paragraph within my divorce decree in reference to physical custody pertaining to visitation:(1) SCHOOL YEAR(a) The Husband will have the child for visitation every other weekend on a standard rotational visitation schedule. The Husband will pick up the minor child on Friday at five o'clock (5:00) P.M. and return the child to the Wife by six o'clock (6:00) P.M. on Sunday beginning August 10, 2012.My Question:Is the Husband only to pick up and drop off to the Wife and no other person or is the Wife able to leave the child for the Husband to pick up from another person other than herself? (eg. school teacher, daycare provider, other family members)

Hello,

The order is silent about who the child may be with at the time of pickup. Therefore, the wife can delegate anyone who she chooses to transfer the child to husband.

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I see that you have reviewed my answer, but that you have not provided a rating. Do you need any further clarification concerning my answer, or is everything satisfactory?

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Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Could I please have further clarification concerning your answer because I read it as the Husband needs to pick up and drop off the child to Wife.

Sure.

A court order is interpreted in the same manner as a contract. Where the order is silent as to a particular term or condition, the court must interpret the order based upon the intent of the parties (or, the court if the order was made by the court rather than in a settlement agreement or agreed to judgment.

In the case of your order, it does not state who must deliver the child. It simply states that the husband will pick up the minor child. A reasonable interpretation is that as long as the wife has delegated authority over the child to someone else, then husband can pick up the child from that person. It could be read to mean that only wife may deliver the child -- however, in order to enforce the order by contempt, the order must be clear beyond all reasonable doubt. Since the order is ambiguous, it cannot be enforced by contempt, therefore, the wife can choose whomever she wishes to deliver the child.

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Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Does the Husband have the right to delegate someone to pick up and deliver the minor child back to the Wife?

My interpretation of the order is that the husband must personally return the child. However, once again, in order to enforce this type of order, it must be unmistakable to the person subject to the order as to their rights and obligations. The order, as written is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation -- consequently, unless and until a judge interprets the order or modifies it to be more definite and certain, I believe that the husband could delegate the return of the child.

The only part of the order that is unmistakable, is that husband must pickup the child. That's expressly stated in the order.

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Do you need further clarification or are we good to go?

Hello again,

I see that you have reviewed my answer, but that you have not provided a rating. Do you need any further clarification concerning my answer, or is everything satisfactory?

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Customer: replied 28 days ago.
Thank you for your help and everything is satisfactory.

Note: For your reference, in Bailey v. Bailey, 231 Ga. 854, 855, 204 S.E.2d 630 (1974), the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed a contempt citation because the parties' divorce decree did not plainly provide that contempt was available to enforce certain terms. Which goes to the point that any ambiguity in a family court order can make enforcement impossible.

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