DILLARD, P. J., GOBEIL and HODGES, JJ.
divorce action, we granted the application for discretionary
appeal of Wesley Joshua Dovel (the "Husband") to
review the trial court's award of $5, 000 in attorney
fees to Samantha Leanne Dovel (the "Wife") pursuant
to OCGA § 19-6-2 (a). The Husband contends that the
trial court's award was erroneous because (1) attorney
fees under OCGA § 19-6-2 (a) were precluded by the
parties' settlement agreement waiving alimony; and (2) it
failed to provide a statutory basis, findings of fact, and
conclusions of law for the attorney fees award. Because we
agree that the award under OCGA § 19-6-2 (a) was
precluded by the parties' waiver of alimony, we reverse
the trial court's award.
record shows that in 2017, the Wife filed a complaint for
divorce, which included a request for temporary and permanent
alimony and attorney fees. On the day of trial, the parties
agreed to settle the case. The parties represented to the
trial court that they had resolved all issues regarding debts
and assets. As part of the settlement agreement, the parties
waived alimony, both affirming that there was "no
alimony or support of any kind" between them. But the
parties reserved the issue of attorney fees for the trial
trial court held a hearing on the attorney fees issue. During
the hearing, the trial court requested clarification as to
which statutory provision applied to the Wife's request
for attorney fees. In response, the Wife's counsel
confirmed twice that attorney fees were being sought under
OCGA § 19-6-2. The parties introduced evidence of their
respective financial circumstances for the trial court's
consideration as required by OCGA § 19-6-2. The trial
court confirmed that it was only considering whether to award
attorney fees under OCGA § 19-6-2 pursuant to the
Wife's request. The Husband's counsel objected to the
request for attorney fees, arguing that a recovery was
prohibited under OCGA § 19-6-2 because the parties'
settlement agreement had waived alimony. At the conclusion of
the hearing, the trial court rejected the Husband's
arguments and awarded attorney fees to the Wife in the amount
of $5, 000 under OCGA § 19-6-2.
Wife's counsel prepared the final judgment and decree of
divorce, which incorporated the parties' settlement
agreement and included the attorney fees award to the Wife.
The final decree was approved as to form by the
Husband's counsel, and it was submitted to the trial
court for entry. After the trial court entered the final
decree, the Husband timely filed an application for
discretionary appeal pursuant to OCGA § 5-6-35 (a) (2)
seeking review of the attorney fees award. We granted the
Husband's application, and the instant appeal ensued.
Husband contends that the award of attorney fees under OCGA
§ 19-6-2 (a) was precluded by the parties'
settlement agreement waiving alimony. We agree.
the final judgment failed to specify the statutory provision
under which the attorney fees were awarded, the parties do
not dispute that the trial court's award was based upon
OCGA § 19-6-2. OCGA § 19-6-2 (a) provides, in
pertinent part, as follows:
The grant of attorney fees as a part of the expenses of
litigation, made at any time during the pendency of the
litigation, whether the action is for alimony, divorce and
alimony, or contempt of court arising out of either an
alimony case or a divorce and alimony case, . . . shall be:
(1) Within the sound discretion of the court, except that the
court shall consider the financial circumstances of both
parties as a part of its determination of the amount of
attorney fees, if any, to be allowed against either
other words, OCGA § 19-6-2 authorizes attorney fees
awards in certain actions involving alimony. Further,
"[a]ttorney fees . . . awarded to a spouse pursuant to
OCGA § 19-6-2 . . . are considered to be a part of
alimony." Vakharwala v. Vakharwala, 301 Ga.
251, 254-255 (1) (b) (799 S.E.2d 797) (2017). When, as here,
parties enter an agreement barring the recovery of alimony,
an award of attorney fees under OCGA § 19-6-2 likewise
is barred. See id. (holding that wife was barred from
recovering attorney fees under OCGA § 19-6-2 since the
parties' prenuptial agreement barred either party from
seeking or obtaining any form of alimony or support from the
other); McClain v. McClain, 237 Ga. 80, 81-82 (1)
(227 S.E.2d 5) (1976) (holding that wife was not entitled to
attorney fees under the predecessor to OCGA § 19-6-2
because she entered into a reconciliation agreement with the
husband that barred any future claims of alimony).
parties' settlement agreement, which was incorporated
into the final divorce decree, unambiguously waived the
parties' rights to receive alimony. Specifically, the
settlement agreement provided:
NO ALIMONY. Each party waives and forever
relinquishes any claims and rights each has or may have to
alimony, maintenance and support of any nature from the other
or his or her estate, whether in the form of periodic
payments, lump sum payments or awards of property from his or
her separate estate or otherwise.
Wife concedes that the settlement agreement does not permit
the award under OCGA § 19-6-2. The Wife nevertheless argues
that the reservation of the attorney fees issue and award in
the decree create ambiguity as ...