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Can I be Held in Contempt After my Case is Dismissed?

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Publish Date: 03/04/2024

Can You be Held in Contempt for Violation of Temporary Order on Child Support or Alimony Even After Dismissal of Your Divorce Case or Entry of Divorce Decree?

Yes, under Georgia law, a contempt action may be filed against you for violation of a temporary order on child support or alimony even after the dismissal of your divorce case or entry of the final judgment and decree in your divorce case.

In Le v. Sherbondy, 799 S.E.2d 178 (Ga. 2017), the wife filed for divorce against her husband. Then, the trial court issued a temporary order requiring the husband to pay child support and half of the child's education costs. When both parties failed to appear at a later hearing in the divorce case, the trial court dismissed the divorce case.

After the dismissal of the divorce case, the wife filed a petition for contempt against her husband alleging that her husband failed to pay child support and other sums due under the temporary order previously issued in their divorce case. The trial denied the wife's petition for contempt on the sole ground that the wife could not file a contempt petition after the divorce case was dismissed.

The wife appealed, and the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the trial court's ruling and remanded the case. The Georgia Supreme Court explained that it had held in the past that the dismissal of an underlying domestic relations action does not bar the later enforcement by contempt of temporary alimony payments that became due before the dismissal. It also explained that it had held in the past that the entry of a final decree of divorce did not bar a party from seeking to enforce by contempt temporary child support payments that accrued before the entry of the decree of divorce and that it also held in the past that a claim for past due temporary alimony which accrued before the entry of the final decree of divorce may be subject of contempt petition initiated after the entry of the final decree of divorce.

Reasoning that application of a similar rule is even more compelling in a case where temporary child support is at issue, the Georgia Supreme Court held that the trial court's dismissal of the divorce case did not bar the wife from subsequently seeking to hold her husband in contempt for his alleged failure to pay temporary child support that accrued prior to the dismissal of the divorce case.

Written by: Daesik Shin


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