Thi Le (Wife) filed a petition for contempt against appellee
Matt Sherbondy (Husband), in which she alleged that Husband
had failed to pay child support and other sums due under a
temporary order in their divorce case. The trial court denied
the contempt petition based solely on the fact that the
divorce action was dismissed before the contempt petition was
filed. We granted Wife's application for discretionary
application to consider that ruling. For the reasons that
follow, we reverse and remand.
21, 2015, Wife filed a complaint for divorce against Husband.
On September 22, 2015, the trial court entered a temporary
order requiring Husband to pay Wife $800 in child support
every month beginning on October 1, 2015, to pay Wife $350 as
child support for the remaining portion of September, and to
pay half of their child's education costs for the
2015-2016 school year. That same day, the trial court also
ordered the parties to attend a status conference hearing
with the court on January 12, 2016. The parties and their
attorneys failed to appear at that hearing, and on February
11, 2016, the trial court entered an order dismissing the
complaint for Wife's failure to appear at the hearing or
to file a motion for judgment on the pleadings in lieu of
making an appearance.
April 21, Wife filed a petition for contempt, alleging that
Husband had willfully failed to pay her the monthly child
support due under the temporary order, as well as his share
of the cost of their child's education. In his response
to the contempt petition, Husband alleged that his financial
condition had declined, leaving him unable to pay the ordered
sums, and that the dismissal of the divorce action nullified
the trial court's temporary order and deprived the court
of jurisdiction to hold him in contempt.
21, 2016, the trial court denied the petition for contempt on
the sole ground that Wife could not file a contempt petition
after the case was dismissed. As explained below, the trial
court erred in so ruling.
held 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. See Williams v. Williams, 194 Ga. 332,
332 (21 S.E.2d 229) (1942) ("The dismissal of the suit
for alimony does not terminate the right of the wife to
enforce the installments of temporary alimony which became
due before such dismissal."); Lovett v. Lovett,
225 Ga. 251, 251 (167 S.E.2d 590) (1969) (same) (overruled on
other grounds in Bryant v. Bryant, 232 Ga. 160, 163
(205 S.E.2d 223) (1974)). See also Wilson v. Wilson,
270 Ga. 479, 480-481 (512 S.E.2d 255) (1999) (holding that
the dismissal of an action for modification of alimony
"did not affect the binding nature of the two annual
alimony payments that accrued under the temporary order
before the dismissal").
Lewis v. Lewis, 278 Ga. 570 (604 S.E.2d 485) (2004),
we reached a similar result with respect to whether the entry
of a final decree of divorce barred a party from seeking to
enforce by contempt temporary child support payments that
accrued before the entry of the decree. As with the order of
dismissal in Williams, we held that the entry of the
final decree did not bar the contempt action. We noted that
we had previously held that "a claim for arrearage in
temporary alimony which accrued prior to rendition of the
final decree may be the subject of contempt proceedings
initiated subsequent to the final decree." Id.
at 570 (citing Newton v. Newton, 238 Ga. 282, 282
(232 S.E.2d 557) (1977); Moore v. Moore, 207 Ga.
335, 335 (61 S.E.2d 500) (1950)). We added that
"[a]pplication of a similar rule is even more compelling
in a situation such as this where temporary child support is
implicated. That is because of the long-standing principle
that the right to receive child support belongs to the child
and cannot be waived by the custodial parent."
Lewis, 278 Ga. at 570. Accordingly, we held that
"the claim for arrearage in child support under the
temporary order was not waived by plaintiff's failure to
assert the claim at trial." Id.
rationale of the foregoing cases requires that we hold in
this case that the trial court's dismissal of the divorce
action did not bar Wife from later seeking to hold Husband in
contempt for his alleged failure to pay temporary child
support that accrued before the dismissal. The trial court
erred in ruling otherwise.
reversed and case remanded.
Melton, P.J., Benham, Hunstein, Nahmias, Blackwell, Boggs,
and Grant, JJ., and Judge John E. Morse concur. Peterson, J.,
 See also OCGA § 19-6-16
("Orders, decrees, or verdicts, permanent or temporary,
in favor of the children may be enforced as those in favor of
a party."); OCGA § 9-12-60 (d) (providing that the
dormancy "provisions of subsection (a) of this Code
section shall not apply to judgments or ...