The Divorce Court May Grant Temporary Spousal Support Pending the Final Determination of an Out-of-State Divorce

On April 3, 1950, Wife filed for a divorce, and requested an accounting from Husband regarding certain properties.

Wife’s divorce lawyer alleged, among other things, that Husband had been living with another woman since 1947, that Husband falsely told Wife that his girlfriend was going to have his child, and that he planned to divorce Wife in Nevada to be able to temporarily marry girlfriend.  Husband, while a resident of San Francisco, purportedly obtained a divorce decree in Nevada.

Wife’s divorce lawyer also applied for an order of spousal support, lawyer’s fees to pay her divorce lawyer, and costs pending divorce litigation.  At the hearing on April 21, 1950, the divorce court ordered Husband to pay $150 in monthly support, $300 for Wife’s divorce lawyer, and $20 for costs, pending divorce litigation.

Husband’s divorce lawyer later moved to vacate the temporary order on the ground that the parties had been divorced since February 2, 1948, by a decree in Nevada.  Wife’s divorce lawyer postponed the hearing on Husband’s motion, and as a condition of the continuation, the divorce court ordered that support payments cease pending the hearing of Husband’s divorce lawyer’s motion.

At the hearing, Wife’s divorce lawyer sought to establish that she did not know there was a divorce proceeding in Nevada.  The divorce court sustained the objections so Wife’s divorce lawyer could not establish that she did not know about a Nevada divorce proceeding.  Wife’s divorce attorney then asserted that Husband told Wife the Nevada divorce was obtained for the sole purpose of allowing him to temporarily marry girlfriend and name their child, and that Husband then said he would re-marry Wife.  Wife’s divorce lawyer sought to show the Nevada divorce was void because Wife was defrauded and too mentally upset to understand what was going on.  Husband’s divorce lawyer objected, characterizing Wife’s divorce attorney’s argument as an attack on the Nevada divorce decree. The divorce court sustained Husband’s divorce lawyer’s objection.

The divorce court terminated the order awarding support and fees to Wife’s divorce lawyer on the ground that the parties were not married at the time Wife filed her request for support, lawyer fees, and costs.

The Appellate Court reversed the divorce court’s order, and ordered a re-hearing.  The Appellate Court asserted that if Wife appeared and participated in the Nevada action, she could not later attack the decree regarding issues that she litigated.  But here, Wife’s divorce attorney sought to show that she did not authorize anyone to appear for her in the Nevada divorce action, and that her appearance was the result of Husband’s fraud upon her and the Nevada divorce court.

Notwithstanding the status of the parties’ divorce in Nevada, the Appellate Court agreed with wife’s divorce attorney and asserted that, pending divorce, the divorce court may require Husband to pay Wife alimony, costs, and lawyer fees for her divorce lawyer.

Gromeeko v. Gromeeko (1952) 110 Cal. App. 2d 117