Atlanta divorce attorneys are often asked whether a party has to pay alimony or child support when the order requiring alimony/child support has been appealed. The Georgia Supreme Court recently clarified this issue. Robinson v. Robinson, S10A0929 (2010). In Robinson v. Robinson, there was an August 2007 temporary order in the divorce case requiring, among other things, that the husband pay the wife $3,000 per month in temporary alimony. Id. In November 2008, a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce was entered in the case, providing lump sum permanent alimony to the wife, but no periodic/monthly alimony. Id. at 2. The Georgia Supreme Court denied the husband’s appeal of this award, and remittitur was entered in July 2009. Id.(“Remittitur” means that the appellate court’s order goes back to the trial court for final order consistent with the appellate court’s decision.) Shortly thereafter, the wife filed a motion for contempt alleging that the husband had not fully paid alimony in June, July and August 2009, while the husband’s appeal was pending. Id. at 3. The trial court found that the husband was not in contempt, and reasoned that the wife was not entitled to periodic alimony under the Final Judgment and Decree, that the Final Judgment and Decree was essentially affirmed by the denial of the husband’s appeal, and that the ruling that no periodic alimony would be due was effective as of the date of the Final Judgment and Decree (November 2008).Id. at 4.
The issue presented to the Georgia Supreme Court on the wife’s appeal was whether permanent awards in a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce take effect as of the date of the remittitur, or whether they relate back to the date of the Final Judgment and Decree. Id. at 5. In reversing the trial court’s decision as to the alimony issue, the Georgia Supreme Court clarified previously confusing and contradicting precedent on this issue. Specifically, the Court held that “a temporary award continues in effect until the entry of the remittitur in the trial court, and it is from that date forward that any permanent award in a final judgment and decree of divorce has effect.” Id. at 11. Thus, the award does not relate back to the date of the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce.
In addition, the Court held that any payments of temporary alimony should not offset lump sum alimony because “temporary alimony is different in character and purpose from an award of permanent alimony because it is intended to meet the exigencies arising out of the domestic crisis of a pending proceeding for divorce.” Id. at 10.