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What is Promissory Estoppel, and How Can It Impact My Georgia Divorce?

Promissory estoppel is not a legal concept generally associated with divorce, child support or any other issue of family law. But, if you are considering divorce and you have been serving as a guardian or primary caretaker of a child her in Georgia, this legal principle may be applicable to your case. The Georgia Court of Appeals has addressed the issue of promissory estoppel in child support cases on more than one occasion. But, the case of Mooney v. Mooney, 235 Ga. App. 117 (1998), is especially instruction on when and how promissory estoppel has the potential to impact divorce proceedings.

In Mooney, the wife agreed to become the guardian of her grandchild, but only if her husband promised to help support the child. Husband and wife subsequently divorced. Although the parties both contributed to the child's support during the marriage, no provision for child support was made during the divorce. Later, wife filed an action seeking child support from her former husband. The trial court initially dismissed wife's action, ruling that husband could not be compelled to support his grandchild absent some explicit agreement to do so. However, on appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals concluded that wife should be able to proceed with her action seeking child support on the theory of promissory estoppel. Id.

Although wife failed to succeed on her claim for child support, the Court of Appeals allowed the wife in Mooney to proceed with her action because she was able to put forward at least some evidence that her husband promised to provide support for their grandchild and that she relied on his promise. Ultimately, wife failed to succeed on her claim for child support based on the theory of promissory estoppel, because she was unable to make two additional showings: 1) that husband promised both her and the child that he would assume responsibilities of fatherhood and 2) that husband held himself out as the child's father. Wright v. Newman, 266 Ga. 519 (1996); O.C.G.A. § 13-3-44.

If you are considering divorce in Georgia, and you are concerned that promissory estoppel may impact your divorce, or if you simply have more questions regarding this topic or any other divorce related topics, please review our other helpful articles and blogs or give us a call to speak with one of our family law professionals.


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